The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step they say, that’s the way I view the recent announcement of 2-6-14 made by the Justice Department that will allow the prosecution of non indigenous domestic violence offenders.
A step long overdue, though there are limitations.
The Tulalip, Yaqui, and Umatilla nations have been selected to participate in what is being referred to as a pilot program in keeping with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA as commonly referred to, and passed only last year.
I’m somewhat surprised by the fact that only six nations have filed an application to address an issue that is epidemic considering that nearly half of all indigenous women have been victims of rape and or domestic violence.
Hopefully this will lead to an increase in prosecuting those within our communities of our nations who commit such crimes as well.
We’ve long railed about the federal governments tepid enforcement, their apparent lack of desire to pursue such cases, but another truth is our communities have been just as lax in addressing these issues, in tolerating them.
This about face by the government can be a defining moment for us as a people, a moment that will be further defined by the approach we take in confronting these and other crimes within our communities.
Rape and domestic violence are just that, neither minimized by the ethnicity of the victim or the perpetrator, a reality that obliges our tribal courts and communities to adopt a zero tolerance position….hopefully we will arrive at that point.
Everyone I know and spoke to of this immediately upon learning of it were elated, a lot of discussion took place and I wanted to hear the voices of others before blogging about it.
Several points were made, concerns were expressed – concerns about whether the government would set the bar to high to allow an across the board inclusion of all the nations, though that is exactly what is supposed to take place beginning next year – whether this would somehow be linked to appropriations held hostage by Congress, or if approved actually arrive.
Considering the history they are valid questions.
The question of whether this would lead to increased prosecution within our tribal courts of indigenous offenders was raised on several occasions, with an aside that if not it was a half empty cup , considering the history another valid question.
So on the surface we have reason to celebrate, an incremental step has been taken, it’s important in doing so that we don’t take two steps back.
That we don’t concentrate our efforts singularly on prosecuting offenders not of our nations at the expense of a failure to do so related to those of our own.
It’s been a difficult and often brutal road traveled by our women,the time is long overdue to recognize, appreciate, and defend their birthright. To celebrate and honor the differences.
Somewhere my mother and sister are surely smiling, I hope they feel a sense of justice, a justice denied them in life just as it has been for so many others.
The young daughter of a friend upon hearing her mother tell her of the passage of VAWA and it’s implications remarked that it was good-that she likens women to butterflies in a manner of speaking.
That they add beauty to the world and were never intended to do any harm, but sometimes harm is done to them, and yes, sometimes they forget they are butterflies and do harm themselves.
A few months or so ago she was given her first computer, a little Acer Aspire which she is completely enamored of, and taught the necessities of safe browsing, parental controls, etc.
Butterflies hold a specific fascination for her, and so she browsed through a few photos of butterflies I had taken to use as a screen saver-this isn’t my favorite as I probably view photos with a more critical eye than her, but it is the one she selected and that’s all that matters.
She asked me if I would post this photo as a gift from her to the “butterflies” of our people and to maybe say a few words:
VAWA is legislation long overdue, and what I view as an incremental step in restoring a balance too many have had no interest in, but like all legislation in itself it is not enough, and the success or failure will depend on two things.
Active enforcement and a change in attitudes- a change reflected in our communities that will translate to zero tolerance.
It’s time to put a stop to the senseless acts VAWA seeks to address-it’s time to stop making excuses or looking the other way. It’s time to stop all the internet posturing of being a warrior and try living like one. A warrior, whose first duty was and is to look to the welfare of women and children.
This isn’t Hollywood – and what is taking place isn’t produced from a script, it is very real, and rent the fabric of the nations. I’d like a future where this little butterfly will be secure, honored, and respected. It is the way it should be now and in the time to come.
It is a step-hopefully the first of what will be many.
It’s business as usual in the halls of the people’s representative government when it comes to the passage of a piece of legislation referred to as VAWA -the Violence Against Women Act-Bill S 47.
Legislation that would empower the nations to address and ajudicate such crimes committed against women.
Those attempting to block passage predictably reside on the Republican side of the aisle and are attempting to qualify their “concerns” as a matter of constitutionality, while also claiming that passage would enable tribal authorities to arrest non indigenous at will.
Though it has passed in the Senate it now heads to the House where Republicans and their misogynistic cohorts the Tea Party hold sway.
The constitutionality argument is entirely without merit based on the Supreme Court ruling related to the United States vs Lara where it clearly states that Congress does have the constitutional authority to remove restrictions pertaining to a tribes jurisdiction in criminal matters.
The reality is that little in the history of the governments dealings with the nations has been constitutional in nature.
What I believe is the motivation behind this resistance to passage is the long held belief of the Republican party that whites are gifted with some innate superiority regarding other ethnic groups,specifically white males, that, and they apparently see the passage of this bill as an incremental step that would further the nations credibility in seeking and claiming sovereignty.
In a union of states where power is wielded by a centralized authority a sovereign nation or nations with the ability to govern themselves, create their own laws, and enter into treaties and agreements with whoever they desired to be sitting in their midst doesn’t go down well, it isn’t deemed acceptable. Especially in the present political climate of rumblings about states rights and even secession.
What shouldn’t be overlooked when our people rightfully take issue with this is that it is basically the same argument Russell Means presented when the Dine attempted to hold him accountable for the assault of his one armed eighty year old then Dine father in law.
Russell claimed that in not being of their nation the Dine did not have the authority or essential sovereignty to arrest or try him.
This despite the fact that he was married to a Dine woman, living on Dine land, and committed his crime on their land.
Among Russell’s more inane and predictable arguments was that it was his belief he wouldn’t receive a fair trail, as if to say his treatment of his father in law was fair-but then we’ve heard that often enough from those in the AIM leadership haven’t we?
Maybe the Republicans can present the same argument and follow the trail Russell blazed in claiming a non indigenous person wouldn’t receive a fair trial because he surely had the same sense of entitlement.
Russell claimed to be a lot of things he wasn’t, and he vacillated back and forth between political party affiliation and positions as it served whatever agenda he had-but I think one would have to say he was at a heart a Republican when it came to issues regarding our ability to adjudicate matters and sovereignty,when it came to empowering and protecting women despite all the self promotion in talk of matriarchy, liberation, patriotism, and sovereignty.
What is going on related to this legislation should be a Howard Beale moment for us, for our indigenous journalists-we should all stand up, say we’re made as hell, not going take it anymore and demand passage. That would be the true “liberator” “patriot” thing to do, and might set an example for the AIM leadership.
The below link contains a video featuring Deborah Parker, vice-chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington state, who shares her experiences while advocating for legislation directed at violence against indigenous women.
I would encourage one and all to view it and I issue an invitation to any of the internet warriors to step forward and address it-but more than that for them to forgo the affectations and become actively involved in their communities without considering whether it will advance their attention rating or not.
Apparently no “honorarium” has been offered to the “liberators” as they haven’t much to say about this piece of legislation.