Once again Republican leadership makes a public stand for violence against women–this time violence against a minority group of women–American Indian women. Will they never learn? Apparently not. Republican leadership seem hell bent to destroy the GOP. In fact, even referring to it as the “Grand Old Party” today is a misnomer.
Eric Cantor is holding up passage of a bill in the House that in part includes VAWA protections for Native American women that comes at a time of appallingly high levels of violence on tribal lands. One in three Native American women have been raped or experienced attempted rape, the New York Times reported in March, and the rate of sexual assault on Native American women is more than twice the national average.
This is interesting because in October 2009 no less than 30 Republican white males in the Senate voted against the right of rape victims like Jamie Leigh Jones to be tried in a court of law. Apparently it’s OK for a Corporation to rule in a case of violence against a woman but it’s not OK for a tribal court to rule in a case of rape committed by a non-Indian on tribal land.
In Oct, 2009 thirty of Cantors buddies over in the Senate thought it was OK to allow corporations to replace our court system in cases of rape. You may remember the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, an employee of Halliburton who was gang-raped in Iraq by Halliburton employees and then locked up and held prisoner in a storage container by her attackers for several days before one her guards let her out. Because Ms. Jones, as a condition of employment, had signed an arbitration agreement with Halliburton, her rapists (employees of Halliburton) were immune from US law.
30 Republicans in the Senate actually voted against a bill designed to protect government contractors who are raped by their co-workers. Until this law was passed in October 2009, employees such as Jamie Leigh Jones, as a condition of their employment, were required to sign a legal document saying that they would agree to settle any differences they might have with the corporation out of court.
The Franken Amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill (Amendment number 2588, H.R. 3326) passed the Senate 68-30 on Oct. 6, 2009.
When you are thinking your vote is not important, please remember that Senator Al Franken was elected by a margin of only 312 votes. Just think! If Senator Franken had not been elected, H.R. 3326 might never have been passed. A few Republican Senators (I think the number was five) crossed party lines to vote for this bill–all the Republican women and Senator Grassley were among those Republicans who did vote for this bill.
Regarding President Barack Obama comment on violence on tribal lands “an affront to our shared humanity.”
Mr. President, From what I see, we have yet to “share humanity” with native Americans. The overall percentage of American Indians living below the federal poverty line is 28.2%” (2008, American Indians Census Facts). The disparity for American Indians on the reservations is even greater, reaching 38% to 63% (2006, National Center for Education Statistics, and other sources). Where, Mr. President is the “shared humanity” you speak of?
Indigenous communities are their own strongest asset. Ultimately, indigenous peoples must look inward to themselves for leaders, institutions, innovation, and community consensus for taking on the task of developing healthy, sustainable, culturally grounded indigenous communities that will be satisfying and sustainable into the indefinite future.
And the same goes for local communities all over the USA. There is a lesson here–not only for Native American communities, but for local communities all over the USA. We must stop looking for solutions from Washington DC and start working together to create them for ourselves at a local level.
HERE IS A PLAN FOR JOB CREATION AT A LOCAL LEVEL NOW. JOB CREATION NOW