WASHINGTON, D.C. – A past marked by violent oppression and exclusion, and a future left open for today’s leaders to mold– that’s what we observe during Native American Heritage Month.
At present, two Native American women serve in Congress. Deb Haaland (Laguna-Pueblo) of New Mexico and Sharice Davis (Ho-Chunk Nation) of Kansas are the historical faces of long overdue change. These women prove that indigenous women are leaders of our country’s future.
But more needs to be done to demand a better future for women and people in tribal communities. According to a study by the National Congress of American Indians, 84.3% of American Indian and Native Alaskan women have experienced violence in their lifetime – the majority of whom have suffered at the hands of non-white partners. On top of that, health care in tribal communities is severely underprioritized, putting women’s reproductive health especially at risk.
As much as Native American Heritage Month means celebrating past accomplishments, it also asks us to make it our mission to create a better future. This can be done by rallying for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and prioritizing safe and accessible birth control, especially in Indian Country. NOW is a fierce proponent of both of these issues, recognizing the vitality of changing this narrative marked by insufficient protections for Native American women.
This November, and all year round, we stand in solidarity with Native American activists to stop the erasure of indigenous women and their suffering.