Unseen Smoke Signals!

The #MeToo movement has brought to light endless accounts of abuse against women. Change will only come, however, when the specifics of the context of this abuse are taken into account.

As a seminary student, I know that scripture teaches “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. But I am also a physician and an attorney, and I know truth-telling can even be harmful without well-considered policies that fit the cultural context that will actually work to reduce harm and promote justice.

Thus, there cannot be a ‘one size fits all approach’ to these important issues. An important example of this is the plight of the indigenous women, specifically Native American women. Native American women are subject to a different standard of rights and justice within their own tribal judicial systems and tribal police departments.

84% of Native American women experience violence in their life. Homicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between the ages of 24 and 34. The quagmire arises because most such violence is perpetrated by non-Native American men, who are not under the jurisdiction of tribal courts.

As a hopeful solution the Violence Against Women Act, revised in 2013, gave tribal nations the power to prosecute non-tribal members for domestic violence only. The law having been in effect since 2015 has been impossible to implement due to lack of resources in the criminal justice infrastructure. So it is almost of null effect, other than documented on paper.

Furthermore, the problem is even more complex. A recent report reveals that though Native Americans face discrimination across many areas of life, the high exposure of such treatment is for those Native Americans that are living in majority Native areas. This bespeaks internal discrimination and women are the main brunt of such devastation of lack of justice.

People of faith and values need to not only care about such injustices, but educate themselves about the specifics to advocate for change that will really work. Only then, will advocacy move to action.

Call and write at the local, state and national level and bring this travesty to the table. I know together we can all do better, truth be told and action taken that really helps Native women.

11 thoughts on “Unseen Smoke Signals!

  1. M.L. King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tide in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
    What can we do, Dr. Bellar? How can we help? What do you suggest?

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    1. For starters, when you have a moment to feed your interest look at the online report “Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of Native Americans”, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR, and Harvard School of Public Health. It is accurately startling!
      “Awareness is the first baby step.” B Bellar

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  2. Thank you for drawing attention to, and highlighting the important concept that there is not a “one size fits all approach” to social justice, women’s issues included. Speaking up for Native American women, and learning more about their plight is certainly something which is both doable and concrete.

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  3. You say: “People of faith and values need to not only care about such injustices, but educate themselves about the specifics to advocate for change that will really work.” Do you have specific recommended resources to help educate ourselves? I don’t really know where to begin looking in relation to the issue you bring up. What do you believe change that will really work involves or looks like?

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    1. Samantha when you have a moment to feed your interest look at the report “Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of Native Americans”, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR, and Harvard School of Public Health. It is accurately startling!

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  4. Barbara, these statistics are startling. Thank you for this information. I must admit that I have not given much thought to this group of women. Thank you for shining your light in the direction of the Native American woman.

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  5. Thank you for lifting up this particular group of people for consideration and care, Barbara. I’m wondering whether your work as a lawyer and a physician has brought you into contact with Native American women. How did you become aware of their circumstances? Where did you learn about their troubling plight? Are there sources of information we might access?

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  6. This is some really disturbing data, especially since it suggests that the abuse issue is prevalent for Native American women regardless of whether they are dealing with men inside their on community or outside of it. It might be helpful to offer a more specific charge for your readers than calling or writing about it. Is there legislation that we can urge our members of Congress to support?

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  7. Good post on an important issue that folks generally try to keep out of the realm of faith, but go full throttle when motivated politically. Good replies to the posts, too!

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  8. I am startled by these statistics. Thank you for bringing to life these real struggles of such a group of people who tend to get looked over . It is another case whereI wish I could find a news source that would present stories such as this rather than catering to the inner fool within us by reporting the same news over and over.

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