Violence Against Women is not a Native tradition. It was not tolerated and in the rare event that it occurred, it was taken seriously. Abuse wasn’t considered a “private family matter.”
Within the natural system of life, tribal people lived together peacefully and violence within the family was rare. Though cultures and customs vary from Tribe to Tribe, the core belief systems of tribes are extremely similar because they are based on the natural and true understanding of reality. People received many teachings from the family and community that helped us to learn how to be good relatives to each other. Another method of teaching that was customary was story telling. For instance, a story of a certain mountain where incest occurred, the offender may have been banished from the band or even put to death. This mountain would represent a crime that would be told to the young and reminded to the membership of the Tribe continuously during the Tribes story telling time. This was called the law of land.
In many Tribes, the abuser could be banished, ostracized or retaliation was left to the male relatives of the victim. A man who was seen as violent within the family was not seen as capable of any leadership responsibilities. He had demonstrated that he did not possess the self-discipline, respect, caring or spiritual understanding to effectively lead the People.
The abuse of Native women and children can be traced to the colonization, introduction of alcohol into our culture and Christianity. (Paula Gunn Allen: “Violence and the American Indian Woman”). Many of our people learned about violence in boarding schools. Boarding school distorted our ability to act as parents, sons, daughters and as relatives. Our traditional parenting was nonviolent and nurtured the spirit of the child. This knowledge was replaced with experiences of corporal punishment that reflected the teachings of the church.
Denied our families our culture in boarding schools, we experienced and passed on to our children and grandchildren verbal, emotional, sexual and physical violence as acceptable means to control others when we didn’t get our way. Alcohol contributes to the violence, making it more unpredictable and severe.
The reservation era diminished the traditional male role of the protector and provider and the role value of women, the government assumed the role and consequently some Native men have experienced a loss of identity and women therefore lost their roles as partners in providing for the physical, mental and spiritual health of their families and relatives. Men and women had partnership and a balance in everything they did in the everyday role modeling for their children. This loss was replaced by the dominant society’s negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviors towards women. Granted, this is no fault of our own ; however, the reality is that contemporary Native male attitude about women and relationships have been distorted and the violent behavior of Native men towards Native women is tearing apart Native families.
The colonization of Native families made women and children the property of the Native men. Similar to concept of slavery. Thus ownership of another human being is genuinely an Anglo concept. Wedding rings became symbols of ownership. With the privilege of ownership property can be treated however the owner chooses.
When the female Eagle chooses her mate she flies up high and invites the male Eagle to catch the stick she has dropped . If the male Eagle catches the stick she flies even higher the next time she courts her mate. She will choose the male Eagle that can continuously and at the greatest height always catch the stick this will be her mate for life. She does this to test her mate because they must work together to provide for their eaglets both he and she will responsible for their survival while one or the other is away gathering.
This is the natural law of the land and one prevalent in the Traditional way of life.
Written by Karen Artichoker, Marlin Mousseau, Julienne Cross.