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A Blog by Gary Wright II

Tribal Law & Order - Rape is NOT cool!

Friday, July 30th, 2010

When Congress was debating the Tribal Law and Order bill last week, at first I became angry about it. If Indian reservations are sovereign nations, I didn't understand why they were trying to pass a bill about dealing with the crime problem on reservations. As independent governments, why weren't their own police and courts dealing with these issues?

Then I watched a Vanguard documentary called "Rape on the Reservation"... One in three Indian women will be raped in their lifetime. The reservation profiled has over 80% unemployment, high alcoholism rates, drug addiction, and violence. The crime rate on some reservations is twenty times higher than the national average. The reservation shown is the size of Rhode Island, yet has only nine police officers. Not nine cops per shift, but only nine in the entire police department. There is no way for a police force that small to patrol that much land, much less enough officers to properly investigate the crimes being committed on their land. Apparently, through some of the treaties with the Indians, the serious crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and prosecuted by a federal district attorney. Both lack the resources to handle crimes on the reservations, so very few crimes are ever investigated.

What shocked me more than these crimes, was the attitude of most of the Indians living on the reservation. The men have embraced the practice of raping women. Rape is NOT cool, and if your sexual partner is intoxicated, they legally can't consent to sex. Getting someone drunk to have sex with them is rape! There was a teen they interviewed that considered their weekend sex-capades as just part of their culture. I thought he was just hamming it up for the cameras, but it quickly became obvious that he was being honest about it. Everyone else is doing it, so you are not seen as "one of the crowd" unless you participate. If a woman reports a rape, there is no one there to take DNA samples. If there was drinking or drugs involved, they blame the girl for "letting it happen." If she reports the crime, she often faces retribution from the family of the accused. Most cases never make it to court.

Speaking for my own people (Cherokee): women have traditionally been held in high-regard and were never to be disrespected. They have always held important positions and some have even held the highest position of tribal Chief. Wilma Mankiller was a Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Charlotte Hallmark is currently the Principal Chief of my own tribe (Echota Cherokee of Alabama). I think that is quite an accomplishment when you consider that America still has never had a female President.

How were these values so quickly lost and how do we keep it from spreading? As far as the Tribal Law and Order Bill, only time will tell if it will be effective. Every tribe is different, so I'm not sure yet if it will be a helping hand or just a grab for control and power.

I watched the bill signing ceremony, and President Obama mentioned something very important: The United Nations Ruling on Rights of Indigenous People. Our last President didn't know what the term "sovereignty" meant, so it was refreshing to hear our current President be able to articulate the issues facing the tribes and our collective governments. That in itself gave me reason to celebrate.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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