Members of several local groups took a stand on the Pablo bridge in Pablo, Mont., last week to show their support for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.
As the Char-Koosta’s Lailani Upham reports, Violence Against Women Act is in jeopardy of never being renewed as Congress fights over certain provisions.
The VAWA Native provision will allow tribes to take on the cases that fall below the federal radar. Tribes would then be granted authority to arrest offenders and prosecute the crimes through tribal courts, adding to their current jurisdiction over tribal members and other Native Americans.
That’s what brought roughly 35 people to the Pablo bridge last week.
Amy Stiffarm, a member of the native Youth Leadership Alliance, stated the reason for the groups to come together and make a literal stand on a freezing winter day on the Pablo overpass. “We want to promote independence and help reverse historical trauma for Indian women. Recently propaganda and media trying to hyper sexualize Indian women has spun out of control. Empowering Native women and restoring the traditional balance of power could have a great effect on current social issues in Indian country. Creating awareness about these issues, supporting victims of violence, and protecting our women is a great place to start.”
Lauren Chief Elk, cofounder of Save Wiyabi Project said, “The realities of reservation violence are horrifying.”
Stiffarm stated, “This event was organized to send a message to leaders in Congress to demand that the Violence Against Women Act either be passed with the tribal criminal jurisdiction provisions or not passed at all. Organizers also hoped to raise awareness to the local community about these issues and also show support for victims of crimes associated with violence against women.”
Stiffarm’s sign, which read “Rez Out VAWA,” was to contribute to what she had learned from Salish Kootenai College that emphasized the sacredness of women and how they are the center of the family, she said.
“There is a 1 in 3 chance that I will be a victim of domestic violence in my lifetime. That’s a heavy burden to carry and it’s causing Native women to feel scared, not sacred. The statistics are against us but that doesn’t mean our lawmakers need to be too. They should be fighting harder to protect us. I want congress to pass a VAWA that will keep Native women living on the reservation safe.”