Speaker: Government not protecting Native Americans, tribes
Elizabeth Kronk Warner said crime is higher in Indian Country and the federal government isn’t doing enough to stop it.
Warner spoke to a full room at the K-State Student Union Ballroom Monday for Indigenous Peoples' Day. The university held the program as opposed to Columbus Day activities for the third year. This year, the theme was “Indigenous Female Leadership: Disrupting Dominant Discourse.”
In her lecture, “Raping Indian Country,” the Chippewa tribal member and University of Kansas law professor said while she used “rape” as a metaphor, the federal government has allowed not only the metaphoric, but the physical assault of Native Americans.
Warner said without strict laws in place to protect tribes and their members, non-natives would assault the land for resources, and in turn take advantage of the men, women and children who live in the area.
When tribal land, overseen by the U.S. government, is being mined for its resources, “man camps” emerge, where non-native workers live during the project.
“Some reservations report a 10 times higher than national average of indigenous women being murdered when these camps pop up,” Warner said. “There is a significant increase in crime when these camps are established.”
Warner said the federal government acknowledged these crimes increased, but have done little to change the outcome. She also said that prostitution, sex trafficking and sex slavery increase when work like this begins.
The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994, is one piece of legislation Warner said was created to help protect women from sexual assault and violence. However, she said, the bill could expire because of congressional inactivity. Its fate remains uncertain leading up to a Dec. 7 deadline for renewal.
Warner said actions like that show that Native Americans are wary of President Donald Trump’s administration. Under former President Barack Obama, two laws gave tribes more power to prosecute crimes by nonnatives. Thus far under the Trump administration, Warner said, he has only taken land away, and acted in regard to the importance of resources available on tribal lands, as opposed to the tribes themselves.
She said that is significant because tribes are unable “to just get up and move, because native lands often hold cultural and spiritual connections.” The land itself may also have legal boundaries for hunting or fishing that tribes negotiated with the federal or state governments. Climate change also has had an effect on tribes for the same reason, since they are bound by reservation lines when water runs low or the animals begin to migrate.
Warner encouraged the audience to vote for candidates who will focus on tribal issues and protections.
“There is the argument that water is life, and it also takes on this feminine quality like the environment, because it gives us life like a woman gives birth,” Warner said. “Raping the country, the environment, it takes on that quality. There is a connection between the environment, and the many groups of people who were already vulnerable, and are becoming increasingly more vulnerable, and are being raped.”
The event was set to run throughout Monday in the Union, with two additional keynote speakers, a movie and breakout groups regarding research, food and leadership within tribes.