Marginalization of Native Women: An Analysis of Local Custom
Native American women as a people have been marginalized historically to the point where they have become a non-people. Miranda (2002) makes the point that Native women have held multiple identities throughout history, including poor, disabled, and even “squaw sluts,” none of which are flattering. These labels, however disenchanting, are the result of trauma and painful wounds that have occurred throughout history, and have been forced upon Native women, as a result of crimes against the spirit and physical bodies of Native women. These crimes include a great deal of sexual violence that has been inflicted on Native women. These crimes lead to deep soul wounds that saturate the spirit of Native women. Traditional measures aimed at redeeming victims have only led to futile measures at resolving criminal negligence, and very often result in the victim being made out to be the criminal. The only true way to reverse this trend of criminalizing the Native woman victim, is to recognize that sexual violence is indeed a crime against the physical body, but also spirit of Native women, one that requires tribal justice, and reformation. Many Native writers report their own healing came not from justice in foreign courts, but from Native ceremonies, and song, that often resulted in a deep spiritual healing by connecting women to their land, their heart, and their passions (Deer, 2009; Miranda, 2002; Lapointe, 2008). This paper analyzes the experiences of many Native women, including their experiences of trauma, and perusal of healing through Native ceremonies.
Deer (2009) discusses “ever-increasing sexual violence” that is occurring among Native American women and young girls. In one case that Deer notes in particular, the author points out the United States prosecuted the defendants; the question posed by the author is whether the tribal nation, rather than the U.S., should have prosecuted and tried the cases. Some argue such crimes are too serious to be handled by native justice system; however, many feel that overreliance on foreign governments has proven detrimental to Native women. This is because Native women suffer ever-increasing rates of sexual violence. Foreign power and control issues have resulted in greater victimization among Native peoples. More so, white perpetrators rather than Native perpetrators are often to blame for crimes (Deer, 2009). The author notes a 1978 Supreme Court decision that took away tribal authority to persecute non-Indian perpetrators (Deer, 2009). The authors also note that prior to the introduction of Euro-American culture, sexual violence was nearly non-existent among tribal peoples. The author notes that the current foreign judicial system fails to address the “emotional, intellectual and spiritual power” that perpetrators have over their victims (p. 157). Lapointe (2008) discusses the commonality of pedophilia and rape among young Native women, by bringing out the experiences of one young women. The author explains how violence against Native women can lead to excessive drug abuse, alcoholism, and rage, leading to a loss of identity and hatred, as well as power among women. After a lifetime of hatred, the author notes the single most powerful influence in the author’s healing was a spiritual ceremony, known as the purification ceremony, meant to cleanse and renew the spirit (p. 43). This ceremony is much like the ceremony discussed by Deer (2009), who argues that the traditional lawmaking system established by traditional Euro-American governments has no such system, which makes healing for most Native people experiencing crime impossible. Native people, who are born into a simple and peaceful way of life, are empowered by the “Great Spirit” according to Lapointe (2008) and confirmed by Deer (2009) and as such, requiring songs, ceremonies, and