Reflection on Women’s History Month: The Stories of Native American Women
by Jennifer Faust
Before I moved to Ohio to work at the College of Wooster, I spent two years living in Toronto, Canada. There, I attended another Trinity UCC, Trinity St. Paul’s United Church of Canada. The church introduced me to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which addressed historic injustices against Indigenous peoples. We began each service at Trinity St. Paul’s by acknowledging that we were standing on stolen land. We would recite this land acknowledgment every week:
“As we assemble in this holy place, we recognize that for thousands of years this territory has been a sacred gathering place for many peoples of Turtle Island. We respectfully acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of several Indigenous Nations, and wish to pay special recognition to the Mississaugas of the Credit. The original nations continue to cry out for justice. As treaty people we commit to listen, learn, and work to right the wrongs of the past and present.”
One of these grievous wrongs was the Indian Residential School system. The Canadian government, aided by the churches, forcibly separated 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and stripped them of their language and culture. I was shocked to learn that the last residential schools didn’t close until the late 1990s. The U.S. also had a residential school system, so things weren’t any better on this side of the border.
Even now, Native American women in Canada and the U.S. are disproportionately abducted, assaulted, and murdered in comparison to people from the general population. The intersecting identities of Native American women as both Native Americans and as women make them especially vulnerable and marginalized. The problem is so severe that there’s even an acronym to describe it: MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women).
What can we do? Well, the U.S. House of Representatives just reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, but it faces challenges in the Senate. We can call our Senators (202-224-3353 for Sen. Rob Portman and 202-224-2315 for Sen. Sherrod Brown) to request action to protect Native American women. And in the meantime, let’s acknowledge that we live on the traditional territory of several indigenous nations, including the Kaskaskia, Wyandotte, and Potawatomi, and let’s commit ourselves to listening, learning, and righting the wrongs of the past and present.