Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
No Time to Delay
The "Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Sex Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota" report is a written summary of 105 interviews conducted in Minnesota of Native women whose profession was prostitution and so many of whom were victims of sex trafficking.
One week ago Friday, I met Sarah Deer, one of the authors of the report at the 8th Annual Indigenous Law Conference at Michigan State University's College of Law in East Lansing.
Deer, who is an associate professor of law at the William Mitchell College of Law, was there to be part of a panel. I complimented her on the hard work that went the writing the report that was released the day before in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She told me that it was so emotional that many cried at the event.
I understand why they cried. I had a difficult time reading it due to the starkness of the subject matter. I will readily admit I had to stop several times in order to get through it. Prostitution and sex trafficking of Native women is one of the darkest holes of indigenous life. The actual report is presented with a powerfully written narrative that is accompanied by numerous tables that make plain the research. In that sense, the report is easy to read.
Since the time of Columbus, Native women have been subjected to sexual exploitation. Frankly - and not meaning any disrespect towards them - they have been fair game. Way past the romanticizing of the likes of Pocahontas or the mythical Indian princess, non-Indian men actively chose to subjugate Native women and have sexually abused them for centuries. Sadly, as the report vividly demonstrates it continues to this day.
"A john said to me, I thought we killed of you," one of the Native women is quoted as saying in an interview for the report.
It is important that the self-righteous do not take a haughty attitude about the women who lived the lifestyle contained within the report. They are our Native mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends. Just as an alcoholic does not one day wake up and decide to become an alcoholic, one has to think that a young woman does not one day wake up and decide to become a prostitute, especially when they are victims violence and sex trafficking.
The "Garden of Truth" mentions how the mainstream media shies away from such reports concerning Native women disappearances, "pointing out the sexism, racism, and prejudice against prostituted women in most news articles."
Here are some stark statistics contained within the report on violence in prostitution of Native Women:
Four out of five perpetrators crimes committed against Native women are non-Indians, according to a study by the Department of Justice. Under current law the perpetrators cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments.
American Indians and Alaska Natives deserve better than what has been afforded to them thus far relating to having to deal with centuries of sexual exploitation.
Currently, there is pending legislation in Congress that will help solve the prosecution of the perpetrators.
The Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1995, is due to sunset this year unless it is reauthorized by Congress. The Violence Against Women Act is necessary to restore tribal criminal jurisdiction; to create services program for Native women; and to establish comprehensive funding streams to support sexual assault services for Native women.
This past Monday, US Senator Daniel Akaka, the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs introduced a bill entitled "SAVE Native Women Act."
If enacted, it would
The Native News Network urges Native people and non-Native to join forces and contact their United States Senators to pass these important pieces of legislation.
Now is the time for action.
posted November 5, 2011 8:20 am edt
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