The ongoing tragedy of the Native Americans; a history of institutional sex crimes, mass murder, and racism

National interests will always be a pivotal component in determining the significance of human rights. The United States of America has always projected itself as the defender of human rights and the American public have maintained a woefully uninformed bias that their country is the least worst in human rights abuses upon people within the country itself. Unfortunately, such biased cultural beliefs ignore the ongoing suffering of the Native Americans. The US media, a hateful and racist group of chauvinists, will constantly highlight human rights abuses in foreign countries such as the honor killings in the Middle East, the rape crimes in India, and worker abuse in China but an examination of the rampant sexual assault, rampant rapes, and high death rates of Native Americans by predominately non-Native people has never made it on US corporate news stations. This is not an accident; US news outlets simply don’t care about the suffering of the Native Americans and work to maintain the projection of the US being a country that is more benign than foreign nation-states. As such, the ongoing mass rapes, sexual assault, and high death rates of Native Americans throughout the country are ignored.

The rampant rape crimes upon Native American women has historical precedent. US scholars continue to be apologists for the rampant sexual assaults ongoing to this day including gang rapes, child rapes, and other forms of violent sexual assault. By sanitizing the history of the Native genocide by the United States of America, the US has sent a message that the history and abuses of Natives lack any significant worth and that their lives are less important than US interests in maintaining a benign projection. The selective removal of the mass rapes following the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk upon Native women, the glossing over of the cruel conditions of “Indian reservations” that continue to cause health problems for Native women, and the lack of focus by the media on the rampant sexual violence that is ongoing and which originated from the colonial period has served to devalue the lives of Native women and Native children suffering from rape crimes. This was not random; colonialists used rape as a tool of conquest and colonization throughout the history of the US and US history books have systematically sanitized, devalued the impacts, or ignored the history of sexual violence against Native women as a result of the racism of the past centuries. By devaluing the history of rampant sexual violence committed by predatory US citizens upon Native women and Native children, the current perpetrators of ongoing systematic rape crimes upon them have been allowed carte blanche access to continue sexual violence thanks to the utter apathy of their situation by the general US public, lack of scrutiny of the ongoing sexual violence, the slow change of US laws that abuse Native American peoples, and lack of financing for tribal lands. The US government wasn’t able to effectively respond with legal protection for Native Americans until amending the Violence against Women’s act in 2012 and the US media never bothered to make a public notification on corporate news stations about the rampant rape crimes occurring throughout the US since the colonial era. The lack of proper context and scrutiny over the systematic rape crimes throughout US history that have contributed to the widespread gang rapes and child rapes of Native Americans. The extent of the history displays the explicit apathy for their suffering and is a byproduct of racism against Native Americans by denying their history and human rights. If the history of sexual violence against Native Americans doesn’t matter, even despite the ongoing rape epidemic against them, then how can the US possibly be a defender of human rights? It is clear that by devaluing the history of sexual violence against Native women and ignoring the clear-cut history of genocide, the US government and US public have continued to create unsafe environments for Native American women.

There are usually attempts to blame Native Americans for their own suffering, this is the general response from the US public thanks to the history of racism and discriminatory laws passed against Native Americans living in tribal lands. In 86 percent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault, the perpetrators were non-Native men. Entire communities of Native American women have reported that they have never met another Native woman who wasn’t raped according to Amnesty International’s interviews of Native communities. This is the result of chronic underfunding of Tribal hospitals regarding rape kits, lack of State enforcement, ongoing racism, and discriminatory – almost predatory – laws passed that have effectively kept Native Americans in a state of helplessness. The state of helplessness to widespread sexual violence and especially systematic rapes throughout the United States; the Major Crimes Act (1885) granted federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Native American territories. While a scant number of tribal jurisdictions among the 550 federally recognized tribes retain concurrent powers, it can hardly be enforced due to the lack of funding. Certain States – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska – have extensive jurisdiction over criminal and civil proceedings within Native territories but don’t provide adequate funding to tribal authorities and don’t provide adequate protection for Native communities themselves. The lack of funding extends to healthcare facilities causing critical healthcare risks for pregnant Native women. Native communities live in a continued state of lawlessness in these areas because of the lack of funding and lack of State response to protecting Native civilians despite having jurisdiction. Certain other States – Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, North Dakota, and South Dakota can assume or relinquish rights over tribal lands – a right not given to Native Americans and therefore a further affront to their sovereignty. The States with optional jurisdiction have not received proper funding by the US Congress so many tribal lands are underfunded as a result. This has led to a state of perpetual lawlessness in many communities and increased difficulty between State and tribal officials in protecting the rights of the Native people from crimes of rape and murder. The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offense – including murder and rape – to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of five thousand dollars; this has resulted in tribal courts being less likely to prosecute serious crimes pertaining to sexual violence. Moreover, the 1978 Supreme Court decision of Oliphant v. Suquamish ruled that tribal authorities cannot have any jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens; this effectively denies rape victims due process and equal protection under the law. State and federal governments that have exclusive jurisdiction over tribal lands usually don’t follow-up in protecting the tribal lands through due process and don’t prosecute the perpetrators of rampant sexual violence. The lack of action from State and federal authorities, lack of funding for tribal governments and police, and laws explicitly preventing due process has allowed non-Native US citizens to enter these areas and commit rampant child rapes, gang rapes, and numerous forms of sexual violence upon Native women and especially Native children. In some cases, kidnapping of children through blindfold, raping them, and then washing their bodies before sending them back to tribal lands where they cannot say for sure whether the rapes happened on tribal land or not and therefore don’t have a right to due process. Even after the violence against Women act of 2012 was passed to stop the high accounts of sexual violence, very little funding has been conducted especially in areas of Alaska which lacks any meaningful law enforcement to protect Native women and lacks sufficient healthcare facilities for survivors of sexual violence. The fact these laws existed for so long and remained uncontested is a result of the history of racism against Native Americans and has resulted in the shaming of Native Americans as to be seen as less than human even when facing rampant sexual violence. The US government and the US media have effectively kept silent about these deplorable human rights abuses of Native Americans; including silence over incidents of child rape and gang rape to maintain the illusion of the US being “less worse” than foreign countries in their sexual abuse of women.

The United States rampant abuse of Native Americans doesn’t begin and end with the legacy of sexual violence against Native women and children. Scrutiny has been conducted upon the US police agencies for the high death rates of unarmed black men but little to no scrutiny occurs over the unarmed deaths of Native American men who suffer a higher kill ratio than even Black men. Native men have no media coverage over their wrongful deaths and have more institutional barriers – purposeful institutional barriers – preventing their families from ever receiving justice even after their deaths. Native children often go into foster care and drop out of schools by approximately tenth grade; this is largely due to the historic destruction of Native American family life. After World War 2, Native soldiers for the US army didn’t receive any medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder unlike their white counterparts and this led to the breakdown of the Native family structure. Moreover, most of the sexual violence is being blamed upon Native Americans themselves despite the overwhelming amount of sexual violence occurring because of discriminatory laws and the perpetrators chiefly being non-Native men in 86% of the reported cases with very little legal actions taken to protect the Native Americans by State or Federal authorities after they assumed jurisdiction. The purpose of re-contextualizing sexual violence as a “native problem” is to remove blame from the failings of State and federal governments and to continue the longstanding dehumanization campaigns conducted throughout US history upon Native American peoples for the horrors conducted upon them. US history books and contemporary media continue to ignore cultural genocide of Native Americans throughout the 1870s – 1890s, in which nuns of Christian boarding schools would torture – through various cases of sexual abuse, malnourishment, forced heavy labor, and sometimes murder – Native children as young as five years of age to force them to forget their native heritage and culture. This was conducted upon Native American children by the tens of thousands and resulted in rampant sexual abuse and child deaths in Christian boarding schools throughout the United States. In the 1970s, due to the popularity of eugenics movements in certain US States that blamed social ills upon peoples ethnic backgrounds, there were massive sterilization campaigns of Native American women that were conducted without their consent and conducted concurrently with coerced abortions by the IHS. The result was over approximately 3,000 sterilizations and an unaccounted for number of coercive abortions of Native women by the IHS under the terms that they weren’t accountable to federal regulations when operating on Native American lands. California, in particular, has a record of forced sterilizations of over 20,000 peoples subsidized through federal funding of Native American women, Black women, and  Latina women. It effectively resulted in the sterilization of approximately 25 – 50 % of the Native American population.

Although politically incorrect, it is probable that Christianity played a prominent role in the horrific destruction of Native American lives and family structure. The boarding schools that tortured children were Christian boarding schools, the torturers were devout nuns, the mass deaths of Natives were celebrated as a curse from God upon the “heathen” Natives throughout US history, and the level of apathy towards their situation may come from Christian morality itself. How could so many IHS workers thoroughly discriminate against Native American women by coercing them into abortions or sterilizing them without their knowledge? How can this entire nation-state argue advocacy of human rights but thoroughly ignore child rapes, gang rapes, and murder rates of Native American peoples? The US consistently touts itself as a Christian nation, so why not then criticize Christian cultural norms when they fail? These horrors aren’t unique to the Native Americans, Europe committed similar mass deaths, cultural genocides, and sanitized their history books of their human rights crimes thus treating well over 60 million people as afterthoughts to the violence facilitated by their empire expansion. The intrinsic failure of Christianity could be thus: the belief that original sin exists creates circular reasoning because people intrinsically believe that they’re capable of committing horrific crimes due to some intrinsic evil nature within humanity which is labeled by Western culture as “human nature” as the chief term. The second, and most important component, is Jesus’s forgiveness of all crimes: this concept, more than anything, is a carte blanche to commit any human rights crime; it is not a peaceful doctrine because you don’t need to feel responsible for committing horrible crimes upon others. The only person that you have to answer to is Jesus Christ by accepting him into your heart, therefore, it effectively functions as a self-forgiveness system. After committing the horrible crimes, you’re forgiven by either the Church or – if you believe in open interpretation – through your own prayers and you can continue believing that humans are ubiquitously sinful and commit to “human nature” by committing atrocities. While that may seem shallow, it is important to note that serial murderers and serial child rapists have sought Jesus’s forgiveness, expect to be in heaven after death, and the pastor who has made it his life goal to serve and teach the faith has the same expectation. Along with that expectation is that any person, including children, who aren’t Christian will be going to hell for the crime having a different set of opinions and beliefs. Therefore, there can never be any culpability or any sort of morality from this intrinsically broken system of moral ethics. This concept of atoning only through Jesus Christ, more than anything else, contributes to human apathy towards genocide and especially the current conditions of sexual violence against Native American women because any human rights abuser can seek Jesus’s forgiveness to cleanse themselves of any wrongdoing with the expectation that it was unavoidable precisely because they’re human.

The lack of scrutiny and media coverage over the full extent of the destruction of the Native American family life, unarmed shootings of Native men by US police forces, cultural genocide, systematic rape campaigns in contemporary times, forced sterilization campaigns in the 1970s, child abuse at the hands of Christian boarding schools in the 1870s, historic genocides of the past, and dehumanization of the victims of the present is likely due to the unwillingness of Western culture to grapple with the utter failings of Christian morality. Despite the West’s persistent attempts to tacitly label the rest of the world to have been ignorant savages before the colonial period and the US’s attempts at depicting the same for the Native Americans by overemphasizing the Northeastern tribes and ignoring the plurality of the 550 Native cultures beyond that region, it remains the truth that Christianity is primarily responsible for these thoroughgoing genocide and hatred for all non-Western cultures. Attempts at building “objectivity” by trying to find common happenstances between colonialists and the natives usually means ignoring systematic rape crimes of the Native Americans, ignoring the actual numbers slaughtered in genocides throughout US history, and trying to dehumanize the Natives under the “noble savage” stereotype to justify Western aggression. It is the same for the West’s exploitative practices of the Middle East and Asia, evidently the West is content to demonize people in India for rape crimes and people in the Middle East for honor killings, but the murder rates and sexual violence of the Native Americans is thoroughly ignored by the US media, and Natives are repeatedly treated as an afterthought that continue to be ignored, contributing to their ongoing suffering as a result of neglect, to be viewed as lesser humans because they aren’t granted the same protections under US law. Yet, even when they are granted protections, it’s poorly enforced due to lack of funding and apathy towards their situation. Moreover, the US media attempting to portray the main perpetrators as distinctly Native men and lack of coverage of the overwhelming amount of non-Native men who take advantage of the lawlessness created by federal and State legislations shows an ongoing effort to continue an explicitly racist history. The reframing of this issue and lack of scrutiny of the US government shows the dishonesty of the US media and disingenuous nature of their reporting activities. The trackrecord of abuse, extending beyond a century in length, doesn’t give much hope that the human rights of Native American peoples will ever improve or that the US public will ever stop it’s tacit compliance with racism against Native Americans in order for meaningful change to be conducted to stop widespread gang rapes, child rapes, and higher death rates of Native American peoples.  The violence against Women’s act of 2012 was a very good path in the right direction, but the government needs to fund hospitals, tribal authorities, and create meaningful changes in the law to protect Native American women regardless of if it means a small loss of land for the US. The US Congress has, in fact, taken more land and that includes during this past year; at this point, the word “complexity” is being thrown forth to obscure the actual abuses upon Native Americans and to continue dehumanizing them. In pursuit of its national interests, the US government has effectively ignored the human rights crimes systematically committed upon Native Americans.


 

Works Cited

Bear, C. (2008, May 12). American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865

Cheney-Rice, Z. (2015, February 5). The Police Are Killing One Group at a Staggering Rate, and Nobody Is Talking About It. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://mic.com/articles/109894/the-police-are-killing-one-group-at-a-staggering-rate-and-nobody-is-talking-about-it

Maze of Injustice. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/maze-of-injustice

Maze of Injustice full report. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

McAuliff, M. (2014, December 3). Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill. Retrieved November 2, 2015.

Rutecki, G. (2010, October 8). Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies | The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from https://cbhd.org/content/forced-sterilization-native-americans-late-twentieth-century-physician-cooperation-national-#_ednref

Williams, T. (2012, May 22). For Native American Women, Scourge of Rape, Rare Justice. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/native-americans-struggle-with-high-rate-of-rape.html?_r=0

Two Shocking Human Rights Myths about the USA

Myth 1: Despite its flaws, the United States doesn’t have problems like widespread rape crimes and murders like in third world countries.

Fact: Native Americans have been, and continue to be, systematically raped, murdered, and tortured thanks to lawlessness as a direct result of US laws that prevented rape victims and families of murder victims from being able to sue the rapists and murderers. Rapists and murderers continue to commit acts of lawlessness: including gang rapes, child rapes, and wanton murder upon Native American tribal lands. In truth, in 86% of the cases, the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Chapter 4 of Amnesty International’s report underlies the chief causes regarding why this has continued to happen for so long. The Violence against Women’s Act’s amending in 2012 helped to identify Native Americans as having more rights, but thanks to the chronic underfunding of the majority of States throughout the US, nothing has really changed in a majority of these areas.

A Summary of Amnesty International’s Findings

Sexual violence against Indigenous women in the USA is widespread. According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn’t know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence. Though rape is always an act of violence, there is evidence that Indigenous women are more likely than other women to suffer additional violence at the hands of their attackers. According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Sexual violence against Indigenous women is the result of a number of factors and continues a history of widespread human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples in the USA. Historically, Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers, including during the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization. The attitudes towards Indigenous peoples that underpin such human rights abuses continue to be present in in the USA today. They contribute to the present high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and help to shield their attackers from justice. They also reflect a broader societal norm that devalues women and girls and creates power dynamics that enable sexual violence against women of all backgrounds.

And Chapter 4 of the Report:

The Major Crimes Act (1885) granted the federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Indian Country.51 There is a widespread misconception that under the Act only the federal authorities have the authority to prosecute major crimes.52 In fact, tribal authorities retain concurrent jurisdiction over Indigenous perpetrators. Nevertheless the impact of the Act in practice has been that fewer major crimes have been pursued through the tribal justice system.

Most state authorities do not exercise criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans in Indian Country. However, Public Law 280 (1953) transferred federal criminal jurisdiction over all offences involving Native Americans in Indian Country to state governments in some states.53 The US Congress gave these states – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Alaska upon statehood— extensive criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian Country. Public Law 280 also permitted certain additional states — Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Washington — to acquire jurisdiction if they wished, and while a number of states originally opted to do so, currently only Florida has full Public Law 280 jurisdiction.54 Where Public Law 280 is applied, both tribal and state authorities have concurrent jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal land by American Indians or Alaska Natives. Public Law 280 is seen by many Indigenous peoples as an affront to tribal sovereignty, not least because states have the option to assume and to relinquish jurisdiction, a power not extended to the Indigenous peoples affected. In addition, Congress failed to provide additional funds to Public Law 280 states to support the law enforcement activities they had assumed. The BIA, however, reduced funding to tribal authorities as a result of the shift in jurisdiction. This has led to a situation where tribal and state authorities have not received sufficient funds to assume their respective law enforcement responsibilities, resulting in a sense of “lawlessness” in some communities and difficult relations between tribal and state officials.55

The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offence – including murder or rape — to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a US$5,000 fine.57 The message sent by this law is that, in practice, tribal justice systems are only equipped to handle less serious crimes. As a result of this limitation on their custodial sentencing powers, some tribal courts are less likely to prosecute serious crimes, such as sexual violence.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that tribal courts could not exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens.58 This ruling in the case of Oliphant v Suquamish effectively strips tribal authorities of the power to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indian perpetrators on tribal land. This decision raises issues of sovereignty which are beyond the scope of this report. It also denies victims of sexual violence due process and the equal protection of the law. Jurisdictional distinctions based on the race or ethnicity of the accused, such as the jurisdictional limitation here, have the effect in many cases of depriving victims of access to justice, in violation of international law and US constitutional guarantees. (Tribal courts are the most appropriate forums for adjudicating cases that arise on tribal land, and, as this report finds, state and federal authorities often do not prosecute those cases of sexual violence that arise on tribal land and fall within their exclusive jurisdiction.) This situation is of particular concern given the number of reported crimes of sexual violence against American Indian women involving non-Indian men. In such situations, either federal or state authorities have the authority to intervene. Reportedly, the apparent gap in jurisdiction or enforcement has encouraged non-Indian individuals to pursue criminal activities of various kinds in Indian Country. 59 Tribal police do have limited powers of arrest over non-Indian suspects in some states.60 They also retain the power to detain non-Indian suspects in Indian Country in order to transfer them to either federal or state authorities, but this is not generally understood by tribal, state or federal officials.

What survivors report to have experienced for decades throughout US history:

  • Support workers told Amnesty International about the rapes of two Native American women in 2005 in Oklahoma. In both cases the women were raped by three non-Native men. Other similarities between the crimes were reported: the alleged perpetrators, who wore condoms, blindfolded the victims and made them take a bath. Because the women were blindfolded, support workers were concerned that the women would be unable to say whether the rapes took place on federal, state or tribal land. There was concern that, because of the jurisdictional complexities in Oklahoma, uncertainty about exactly where these crimes took place might affect the ability of these women to obtain justice. Interviews with support workers (identity withheld), May 2005
  • The mother of a survivor of sexual violence from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation told Amnesty International how she returned home in September 2005 to find her 16-year-old daughter lying half naked and unconscious on the floor. She took her daughter to the hospital in Mobridge, South Dakota, where a sexual assault forensic examination was performed. She described how the suspected perpetrator fled to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Standing Rock Police Department (SRPD). He returned to the Reservation in early 2006 and was held by police for 10 days, although both mother and daughter only discovered this when they rang the SRPD to ask about the status of the case. They found out that the suspect was to go before a tribal court, but the mother told Amnesty International that to get this information, she had to go to Fort Yates and ask them in person. She told Amnesty International that she hoped that the case would be referred to the federal authorities because this would mean a lengthier sentence for the perpetrator. She said that, months after the attack, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer and a BIA Special Investigator arrived unannounced. As the daughter was not home at the time, the mother told them where to find her. However, she never heard from them again. Federal prosecutors did eventually pick up the case and in December 2006 the perpetrator entered into a plea bargain and was awaiting sentencing at the time this report was written. Interview with mother of survivor (identity withheld)

Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

US politicians know that this is happening and have shown total indifference toward fixing the situation. Taking more Native lands seems to be more important than helping rape survivors.


Myth 2: The police have a duty to protect US citizens from harm.

Fact: The Supreme Court decided in the case of Castle Rock V. Gonzales that the public duty doctrine doesn’t extend to private citizens and that the safety of Gonzales’s three children was not a protected entitlement under the fourteenth amendment. In effect, the police don’t have to help you when you’re being robbed, raped, or murdered.

Politicians attempted to redirect the argument to what the police have to go through every day on the job but that was an attempt to divert the main issue: the US government – Local, State, and Federal – didn’t want to be held liable to lawsuit whenever police failed in their duty across the country. Ergo, the decision was ultimately about protecting government monies above the rights of human lives; in this case the three innocent children that the police failed to protect by not enforcing the restraining order.

Sources:

A summary of the case: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect-someone.html

The case file itself: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-278.ZS.html

Assessment of the legal implications:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525280/