Friday, November 15, 2013


They were like two whitetail does, who went everywhere together, in step, ears moving (actually only their long earrings swinging), tails switching.  They didn’t dress exactly alike, but -- typical junior high girl friends -- very similar.  In fact, they loaned their clothes and ornaments back and forth.  Seeing them from the back, it was impossible to tell which one was which.  You had to say one of their names and then, when the face turned, it was clear that one face was a little broader and one was a little sweeter.  But they both had the pliant dimorphic grace of girls almost boneless, some tall flower swaying in the wind, but only buds -- not yet sexual.  They were especially fascinating at pow-wows where they wore white buckskin dresses to dance side-by-side, synchronized with each other as well as the music.  They pinned eagle down in their long black hair as though it were blossoms and ermine skins hung from their shoulders as though they were tassels.

Though they weren’t twins nor sisters, they shared a great-grandmother who had raised them on a quiet back country Dawes Act allotment ranch.  Their mothers and grandmothers had disappeared into cities -- no one knew where and no one was particularly interested in finding them, particularly the girls.  They felt self-sufficient, safe, and confident.  The old lady taught them to be guarded in the old way.  Never to go anywhere alone, always to distrust men, never to show off or attract attention.  But they were hard to ignore. 

In school they did very well, in their quiet way.  Their work was never surprising, but always done carefully.  Teachers tried to draw them out with no success.  The girls would just giggle, duck their heads, and cover their mouths with their hands.  “Aaaaiii,” they said.  They didn’t go out for sports. On the bus they sat right behind the driver and pay no attention to the ruckus that sometimes broke out behind them.

If anyone went to their house, they were not likely see the girls unless their ancient great-grandmother called them for some reason. Then they came in from outside.  They had never gone to the Indian Hospital.  They weren’t even born there and slipped past all well-baby and healthy child programs until they had to have vaccination for school.  Yet they were perfectly well.  There was a kind of mystical aura around them.

A certain kind of man stalks such vulnerability, not because he admires it but because he knows how easy it will be to seize, break, maim and sully.  Seeing a bed of lilies, he would not resist the urge to trample them.  One of these men spotted the girls and with the help of a henchman, pulled them into a car, drove them out into a solitary spot, raped and murdered them.  He did not need Viagra.  The girls were not found for a long time.  The murderer was a white man.  The henchman was not.  The henchman finally confessed and was sent to jail.  The tribe could not prosecute the white man.  The FBI was very slow to act and the man disappeared.  The great-grandmother died, wailing.

That fall people began to report two white deer were in the forest, their silvery moon color showing up well against the dark conifers.  No one tried to shoot them.  They walked side-by-side with exceptional grace.  

That white man, that killer, showed up in a bar, talking big, drinking hard, bragging how he was going to go hunting with his powerful gun.  His face was greasy and sweaty, his belly hung over his belt, he slurred his words.  Everyone pulled away from him except the bar girl, who was afraid of no one and had a bat under the bar.  She told him about the white deer and where they were.  She knew he would never make it there.  They were not in danger.   At some point the white man clutched his chest and fell off his stool, writhing on the floor.

“Guess he’s having a heart attack.”

“Couldn’t be.  He has no heart.”

“Think he’s in pain?”

“Sure hope so.”

No one called an ambulance.


Current news releases:

Back in March, US President Barack Obama signed a law to better protect Native American women from men who are not members of Indian tribes.
According to the US Justice Department, non-Indian men commit 86 percent of the sexual assaults against Native American women.
In the past, if an assault took place on Native American territory, those men were immune from prosecution by tribal authorities.
To address the issue, Obama signed into law the Violence Against Women Act, to give Native Americans the right to prosecute non-Indians.
* * * * *
Indigenous women in the US experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country. According to the US Department of Justice, nearly half of all Native American women have been raped, beaten, or stalked by an intimate partner; one in three will be raped in their lifetime; and on some reservations, women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average.

*  *  *  *  *
"My mom and I already talked about that. When I'm raped, we won't report it, because we know nothing will happen. We don't want to cause problems for our family."
Not if she is raped - but when.

* * * * *
Reservation demographics play an important role. A significant portion of residents on reservations are non-Indian, largely a result of the US government's sale of tribal land to white settlers around the turn of the century.

* * * * * 
According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2005 and 2009, 67 percent of sexual abuse cases sent to the federal government for prosecution were declined. Justice Department officials told reporters the low prosecution rate is attributable to a lack of evidence, or issues with witnesses in the majority of cases.

While the reauthorized version of VAWA is without a doubt stronger than previous ones, the provisions expanding tribal jurisdiction are still narrow. Tribes continue to have limited sentencing authority - up to three years, which could mean that some cases still are sent to federal or state authorities for prosecution. The new provisions are also geared towards targeting domestic or dating violence.

* * * * *
"There is a history of racism and oppression for native women which makes predators think somehow we are vulnerable and that we're not protected by the system," said Sarah Deer, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota and member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. "So you maybe have a hate crime component of this along with a jurisdictional problem."

* * * * *
Tribal advocates say the trauma of their ancestors has been passed down through generations, with painful memories still fresh: brutal and bloody wars, forced relocation and stolen land. There were also the boarding schools where many Native American children were forcibly removed from their families in an effort to assimilate them into white culture - and where sexual abuse is well-documented. Cultural traditions have been broken, tribal governments weakened.

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