Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Believe it: The long-stalled Violence Against Women Act

There's a great photo my sister showed me recently of an elderly woman at a rally on women's rights with a sign - "I cannot believe I still have to protest this s--t."

I've seen versions of this at different rallys, but I think the elderly woman fighting the same fight for so long hit both the higher humor note, and the "No kidding!" reflex.

The Violence Against Women Act has been re-introduced WITH the Native American women provisions in the draft that sputtered to nothing with the last congress. While I'm glad this is getting re-introduced, I have some sympathy for the elderly woman with the sign. Why is this even being debated? Surely this is a no-brainer.

For Alaska Native and American Indian women, domestic violence can be especially tricky to catch and prosecute. The White House has a fairly succinct summary of the problem:

With non-Indians constituting more than 76 percent of the overall population living on reservations and other Indian lands, interracial dating and marriage are common, and many of the abusers of Native American women are non-Indian men. Too often, non-Indian men who batter their Indian wives and girlfriends go unpunished because tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians, even if the offender lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member, and because Federal law‐enforcement resources are hours away from reservations and stretched thin.

This is just one of many problems, but a pretty serious one, and a problem this version of the act addresses. With Native women being outrageously over-represented in the area of domestic violence, it's of utmost importance that we not only get the actual support and legislation to address it, but a signal from our national leaders that they see this population of women who are too often ignored.

Besides Native women, this act would address violence against LGBT and immigrant victims, as well as issues in the backlog of untested rape kits. Many groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, are encouraging citizens to call Speaker Boehner's and House Majority Leader Cantor's office immediately to make sure they know the importance of passing this. And while you're at it, make sure you drop your state's representatives to let them know how their constituents expect them to vote.

There's more than enough evidence these are issues that need more resources and attention, more than enough proof they are not getting enough of either, and more women than ever being abused, raped and killed while this act was let to expire.   I can't believe we still have to protest this, but since we do, let's get it done.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Idle No More Rally tomorrow in Anchorage

Thanks to Progressive Alaska for the head's up!

Head to the Anchorage Town Square tomorrow at noon for "drumming, singing, dancing, praying and giving voice to the Spirit of our lands and waters, which need our defense now."


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are you ready to be Idle No More?

I sat on a plane tonight next to a hilarious woman from D.C. As we talked about what each other did, she was intrigued by my involvement in Native issues. And she asked a question that was actually pretty encouraging.

"What is this Native 'Idle' thing?"

She was talking about the Idle No More movment (its origins are explained well here,) that got a big push of momentum the past few months.

Many of the movement's gatherings have simply been going to a public (often political) place and singing, drumming and calling out to the people. It's essentially a big awareness campaign about abused/ignored treaty rights, violence against Native women, and really a lot of social Native issues that can be solved with more attention toward action and policy.

The woman's remarks were encouraging in that a non-Native woman from D.C. heard enough about it to wonder what it was. Native issues are often easily ignored, and treated as issues of the past, not the present.

 While it's a movement in its infancy, and I think there needs to be some concrete goals with what the people want to do with it, it's clear that indigenous people across North America were ready to act on issues that have too long seemed impossible to get in the spotlight. And I'm hoping this also means people are also ready to listen - and act.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hope and Change 2.0

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the president's inauguration ceremony this year, and was so glad I did. I think I was prepared for the spectacle - the pomp that inevitably surrounds an event of this magnitude. I was unprepared to be as encouraged as I feel right now. Not only by Obama's speech, which was one of the most thoughful speeches I've heard, but by the people surrounding me the whole ceremony.

"That is our generation's task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time." - Pres. Obama

The president stated most eloquently what the people who journeyed so far to see him believe - none of them were waiting for the perfect answer, the perfect solution. But everyone in that crowd was wanting action, wanting to work, wanting to make these United States the ideal we all strive to. I was hard put to put my finger on the vibe I was getting from all these people I spent hours with out in the cold until Obama spoke it, but once he did it seemed obvious.

These thousands upon thousands of people were excited, not to just see famous people and dignitaries, but to continue the work. To continue what they signed this man up for - hope and change. The crowd was surprisingly subdued in a way. There definitely still excitment, still energy, still cheering, but I thought it was most interesting that, once the president was done speaking, a huge amount of the crowd started to leave. Most knew Beyonce was about to perform, most knew famous people were still gathered. But they came to hear the president, they came to hear how he was going to live up to the duties they elected him to fulfill.

I wasn't prepared to feel this encouraged, even inspired by the day. But I was most unprepared for how proud I would feel of my country - and not because of the anthems sung or the flags everywhere. It was a moment of realization that this huge mass of Americans were all there with different ideas, different opinions, different journeys, but all there because they truly had hope for their country. Thousands of Americans all agreeing that we can, and will, make things better.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I'm back! No... really...

It has been nearly a year since my last post. But a year ago I committed to getting some things in order and NOT maintaining the blog so I could make a pretty big life change and pick up blogging as I'd like to - more frequently and with more time and effort behind each post, rather than the 1 a.m. ramblings that sometimes happen.

In the little over four years since I began blogging, I've written a book and (about) a half, a full-length play, and several short stories. But, in an effort to step up the pace and get really serious about my writing goals, I am making a huge professional switch at the moment to dedicate time to these efforts.

And part of the plan is to blog more regularly, as well as expand this singular Alaska Native voice to several. And by regularly, I mean just about every day.

So I don't know how many of you are still around, but if you are you will begin to see more posts on Alaska Native and American Indian issues, culture and even entertainment.

It's good to be back!

- Writing Raven