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.