The Native Harvey Weinsteins

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.31 Comments

sam-english-illustration

CW: Sexual harassment and assault.

Additional note: this is written from my female cis-hetero perspective. There are so many more layers and stories from our LGBT relatives. But those aren’t my stories, and I don’t want to misrepresent them. I can only speak to and from my experiences. As always, if you’d like to write a guest post, send me an email. 

We all know the stories. We hold the stories.

I, like most women, read the recent Harvey Weinstein expose with dreaded recognition. I heard in the voices and the stories of the women he abused the voices and stories of my own friends. I heard my own voice and my own stories. I had to read it in small parts. Flipping back to other tabs, answering emails, clicking back. I read with my stomach clenched, my thoughts full of fear and anger. Power and vulnerability. Protection of power. Patriarchy. Consequences for victims but never abusers. The cycle repeats.

For years I’ve been thinking of how to approach this topic on the blog. It’s something that comes up so much in my friend circles, constant sessions of story swapping and commiserating and “omg him too?!” that happen whenever a table full of Native women get together. But there’s the fear of retribution, the fear of embarrassment, and the fear of airing the community’s dirty laundry. We struggle so much to be more than stereotypes. There’s a fear that if we talk about these issues, we fall back on any progress we’ve made.

But the stories nag at me. I think about my friends’ strong, beautiful faces and bodies, and I think about the shit they’ve been put through by some of your faves in Indian Country. The men we uphold as examples, as our “famous Indians,” our important leaders to be admired. The ones who have “made it.” The actors, the musicians, the athletes, the activists, the writers, the DJs, the politicians, the government workers, the business owners, the motivational speakers, the professors. I’ve heard so many stories. From heartbreaking, terrifying stories, to mundane, run-of-the-mill sexual harassment stories–the ones that should be horrifying but happen so often we’ve become numb.

The women’s whisper network in Indian Country is strong. We look out for each other. I’ve been pulled into offices by female mentors to be told who to stay away from and never be alone with at the next NAISA. I’ve been texted by friends who see where I’m going to be speaking to warn me about particular men at that institution. I got an email from a female follower once after I went after a prominent male Native on twitter to warn me that he was dangerous irl as well. We have elaborate dances we do to avoid abusers at conferences, at powwows, at Indian Markets, and at community events. We dip and dodge and sometimes still have to stand cautiously next to or end up on a conference call with the ones who hurt us or hurt our loved ones. We offer weak smiles and nods because we don’t want others to know in the moment. But we know who the womanizers are. We know which ones harm women. Yet we can’t speak up.

We’ve protected the ones that mainstream society has deemed “worthy.” My own stories include the young superstar athlete who sent unsolicited d*ck pics to many of us on snapchat. The now tribal attorney I turned down for a date who made my life hell for years by trying to prove I wasn’t Native. The married musician and self professed feminist who kept telling me to drink more at an after party, tried to get me to come back to his hotel room, and brought me to a corner under friendly pretenses only to try and make out with me. The head of a Native organization who was so brazen after an Ivy League conference he cornered my friend and tried to force her to kiss him, and five minutes later stuck his hand down the back of my jeans to grope me during a group photo–his wedding ring glinting in the flash, and my two Native male friends standing nearby, oblivious. There are other stories I’m not ready to tell. Then there are the smaller things. The ways Native men don’t treat us the way we deserve in relationships. The ways they use and throw away and move on to the next and the next. The ways we aren’t respected. The ways they know there’s always another option. The ways we don’t get the same credit or celebration for our work. The ways we’re often passed over for a male voice and a male perspective.

I often see on Instagram the next beautiful young woman swept up by the last harmful man and want to tell her, want to scream about the ways he hurt my friend, but I can’t. I see the men get awards, get speaking gigs, get starring roles, get tenure, get published, get fawning praise online, and I can’t do anything to stop it. I watch them talk about the need to respect and protect Native women, tweet out about #MMIW, proudly proclaim they come from matriarchal societies, and the rage boils inside me. I hold so many stories, but they’re not all mine to tell. This also isn’t new. These same conversations happened during AIM days. We know those stories too.

But I do know that we tell ourselves its ok. That they change. That it wasn’t that bad. That maybe we’re overreacting. That we have so few representations in the mainstream we don’t want to hurt their reputations. That they do “good work.” That it’s historical trauma and not their fault. That they are active in their ceremonies. That their partner is so amazing we don’t want to hurt her. That we fear the consequences of speaking out. That we might lose our jobs. That we might lose opportunities. That we might be pushed out of the communities that give us strength and joy. That we will be made to feel it was our fault. That we won’t be believed. That we don’t want others to feel the sadness we do at the loss of another role model.

We know the statistics, that one in three of our women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. We also are often quick to fall back on the statistic that 70% of these assaults are committed by non-Native men. But that still means 30% come from within our communities. And these are only the reported numbers. Imagine how many more go unreported.

We need to talk about it. I just don’t know how.

Of course not all Native men. Of course I know many thoughtful, kind, truly respectful Indigenous men. But many of those men are also complicit in this system. They know these other men, they share spaces and beers and panels and even ceremonies with them, and they also know the stories of their friends, their sisters, their partners–yet they say nothing. And if you read this post and are worried one of these stories I hold is about you, then it’s time to start examining yourself and your behavior. Our Native men need to step up and address and fix this. It’s not on us, and it’s not just me. Ask any woman in your life.

So I have no happy resolution or call to action. I just know that we have our own Harvey Weinsteins, and that reading those stories today made my own stories I keep bubble and burn and finally have to come out. We need to do better. Native women deserve better.

 

 

A few resources:

Strong Hearts Native Domestic Violence Helpline: 1−844-762-8483

Strong Hearts website list of resources: http://www.strongheartshelpline.org/resources/

Strong Hearts list of how to identify abuse: http://www.strongheartshelpline.org/abuse/ 

“Violence Against Native Women is Not Traditional” (handbook from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center)

  • Zoe

    thank you for this. It is breathtakingly brave and necessary and powerful.

  • Wow. Just wow.

  • coastal555

    Hands go up to you for this truthful and brave piece that will sadly hit home for every Native woman who reads it. It is so necessary to speak openly about this topic which plagues us. Again, my hands go up to you for providing a much needed empowerment tool for so many that need this to be said but couldn’t find the words to express it.

  • sarahdeer

    Mvto 1000X. We also have powerful Native women who are enablers….

    • Bobbi Larson

      Yes we do. Some women are so needy they will do anything to keep their male whore rapists from being found out. Sister’s of these kinds of males are so hateful too.

  • Tina Pearson

    Thank you for this truth, written with such heart and clarity.

  • Lynn

    Yes, thank you for this piece

  • Suzanne Smoke

    thank you for writing this, the abuse and behaviors are so normalized it seems to have been accepted in some communities..im sorry for the backlash from some in community you may endure because of writing this truth.., shame and secrecy are our friend now, its what was taught at the schools by the priests and nuns , to hide the secrets and the shame and humiliation and abuse came with them back to community, and as families and helpers we did not know what to do or how to deal with it..i look for ceremony as my helper , but we do not have ceremony for “healing from hurting our children in this way because it was unheard of”… so now , in todays generations, we carry other secrets and intergenerational effects of misogyny and abusive behaviors, outright sexual abuse under our noses, and in our faces, in our community centres and band offices of dysfunctional behavior. meegwetch for your strength in TRUTH <3 biindigenhealingandarts@gmail.com

  • Autumn Leona EagleSpeaker

    Thank you for speaking your truth and the truths of many others, and for being brave enough to call out these native men that hunt our women for sport or notches on their belt.

  • Erica Scott Pacheco

    Yes! I’ve been saying for years, if women are sacred…that means ALL women are sacred. Some of the biggest “warriors for the people” are also the biggest slut shamers.

  • Terry Gomez

    I have worked in the writing and Native theater fields. There are several times this sort of thing happened. I did talk to people about it, especially to other women that I thought I could trust. Yes, I see the same women who knew about certain men, who end up on line calling them “beloved elders”. Very disheartening to see other people try to cover this up, women as well as men.

  • stevejulian

    There are some subjects which are difficult to bring out. Whether someone agrees or disagrees with the topic it can cause a community to divide. We see it much in the much talked about Israel expansions. We see it in the talks about taking a knee in the US. The Indigenous community has links where someone somewhere knows someone. I know of stories of respected Teachers (now Elders) who had affairs in Traditional camps. Yet they have went on unscathed by their conduct. It is a hard discussion because it is always generalities. And generalities paints a broad brush. So it comes to the question as to who is clean and who is tainted? I wonder how many of us could have their lives and conducted scrutinized in public? The Traditional stories have Teachings of incest and other abuses that highlight the frailty of morals and conduct. One of the things to consider in our world is that our people have been damaged. Some of those damaged carry themselves in that manner; damaged. So it is of no surprise that we have predators and deviants in our community. How do we separate those who have and are living with clean actions and those who have done harm but are trying to make amends and those who are just oblivious of their bad behaviour?

  • Native Anthro

    Thank you very much for being brave enough to share. Super saddening to read what has happened to you. Whatever happened to good ole’ fashioned family values? Native conferences are plagued with this behavior by power-hungry, narcissistic men, which is why I choose not to go. Their messages are tainted by their mistreatment of women. I look forward to seeing more people called to the carpet for this behavior. The tally just keeps getting bigger until victims start speaking out.

  • Marie Bigham

    Love and hugs, friend! Sharing your stories, our stories, gives strength to the next woman who needs to tell her story.

  • mtm

    Fantastic truths you’ve spoken and thank you for calling on the men and women to stand up against the atrocities against our women/men and communities. Time for all to take action and never turn back!

  • Christy

    Some sicko who called himself the Navajo Nation Supreme Court clerk solicited me for sex in his office in Window Rock. I ran out of there and he shouted “Hey!” as I ran out the door and to my car. That guy bragged about his wife and kids and how his dad was a codetalker. The nerve of him. An ex chapter prez for the eastern division also solicited me for sex. I am sick of these people, these so-called honorable leaders.

    • google yahooi

      Wow.

  • besidethewater

    Thank you for being brave enough to post this blistering truth that many of us know all too well! The rhetoric that “Native women are sacred” fills these men’s mouths and spills from their pens and paintbrushes for public consumption, but in private, they harass, lie, cheat, gaslight, abuse, stalk, and wound Indian women without a second thought. They go on tours, give presentations, attend conferences, hit the pow wow trail, go to gallery openings and Market, and claim to be activists “for the people” – all while engaging in patterns of harassing and harming women to the backdrop of whispers of warnings from our sisters. There are those that we sadly aren’t warned about in time, those we naively trust, that go on to do irreparable damage with their predatory narcissistic, sexist, misogynistic abuse, and after, we watch them continue to garner attention due to their good looks, charisma, and positions of power or public acclaim and recognition, with other Native women lining up to fawn over them. On to the next they go. I have been able to warn my closest sisters about a few, but Sarah Deer is unfortunately correct that are too many Indigenous women that are enablers. My warnings to other women regarding an ex and my experiences could be (and most likely would be) dismissed because I’m a “troublemaker with an axe to grind,” or because I’m “just a crazy, jealous ex,” or perhaps I “was asking for it” like the time a married director of a major, national Native non-profit slid his hand up my skirt underneath a dinner table at an event, surrounded by people, and smiled with impunity while I froze in fear. This has been going on in our communities for far too long; my mom and my aunties talked of men doing these same things decades ago. Thank you for saying so publically what so many of us were afraid to because of the shame and fear of reprisals, of not being believed, being ostracized and intimidated. If we’re going to talk about abuse and violence against Indian women and us being targeted by non-Natives, we sure as hell need to start openly discussing and addressing how we’re mistreated and abused by our own Indian men. How can we continue to be quiet accomplices?

    • Women of all races hear your words and know the truth and now we need to speak it so all will hear. Then we can heal and forgive and unite renewing our hope that humankind will evolve.

  • Ellen Marie Jensen

    Thank you for this! Many women in Samiland face the same issues, but very few will speak out. I hope Indigenous women can create a global platform to address lateral sexual violence in Indigenous communities and professional networks. I’m really sad to hear that women aren’t safe at NAISA conferences. But it doesn’t surprise me, sadly.

    Giitu! Thank you for speaking up! It encourages others, even across the pond, to do the same.

  • Daniel Rosenthal

    A few years ago there was a case of a Navajo man who kidnapped an 11 year old Navajo girl, raped her and then
    beat her to death with a tire iron. There are good and bad people in EVERY community. Fortunately, the really
    bad ones are a small minority, but that minority can still do a lot of harm..

  • Shannon Crossbear

    A coupel of years ago there wasa group of us women in our circle said enough is enough when one of our sister was assualted during a sacred gathering. We developed a position paper to be posted at every gathering… here it is..we share freely and encourage others to do the same…
    Dear Relatives of all Nations,

    We, your strong hearted sisters, come to you in a good way and ask you to listen to our words.

    As grandmothers, mothers, aunties, daughters and granddaughters we have critical roles to play in the healing of the scared hoop of humanity. We have known joy. We have suffered tragedies. As women our responsibilities include both brining life in and nurturing and sustaining life. We know what hurts and what helps. We are taking an active stance against the hurtful actions against the earth and all its inhabitants.

    We support a vision of a time; when no relative is abused and each are respected for the gifts they bring to the circle, when no woman need fear for their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual safety, when good words are followed by actions. Actions that demonstrate that respect is being paid, protection provided and voice honored. We believe that the legacy our ancestors left; prayer, song, ceremony, and language will help us to realize this vision. We must have the collective courage to secure that future. We must be *Idle No More.

    We commit to providing safety and healing to all those who may have experienced hurt to their very sacred being, to those who were or are being assaulted physically, mentally or spiritually by those in positions of real or imagined power. We put those individuals on notice who may think we are not paying attention. We will not accept excuses or justifications for abusive behavior. We will not tolerate behavior that detrimentally impacts our relatives. We, the women, the water carriers, can turn a bolder into a grain of sand. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who support the covenant of safety that must be provided in our relationship to each other.

    In addition, we grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons, aunties and uncles, tell you that when one weeps we must be there to listen, to comfort and pray them through their healing process. We must provide the protection needed to call back their wounded spirit by supporting them with complete unconditional love. We must revitalize our respective cultural life skills from all directions and teach prayers and love as the foundation for all healing.

    We call upon the collective community to join us as carriers of hope, to support our practices, to embrace our experience and love in the future using our traditional ways. We implore all of you, no matter what your role, gender, race or affiliations, to stand united in a covenant of safety that eliminates the exploitation of minds, bodies or lands. We ask this of you in a good way. Together we call upon all of you to commit to make sure these things come to pass.

    With love for all our relations,

    *Idle No More: Meaning that we hold ourselves individually responsible for the collective outcome. This means accepting our own agency, sovereignty, roles and responsibilities. Like the TSA.. if you see something , say something.. secret keep us sick.

  • Pam Hughes

    This Weinstein news has resurfaced some experiences I had forgotten about and some I had not. I doubt any woman of any ethnicity has never experienced sexual violence in her life. Winona LaDuke wrote a great short story about how the women drove a pedophile off the rez. Just writing this I remember an internationally known spiritual leader disrobing in front of me. I think it is on the women to take the lead because if we don’t take back the respect that the creation power thay we hold entails no man will or can offer that to us.

    • jfkeeler

      I wonder how Laduke responded when her “spiritual advisor” was accused of sexual abuse and ran off last year?

  • AKS

    What is your blog girl? You are a DAMN good writer and laid this out like fire. HANDS UP TO YOU.

  • AKS

    Scratch my last comment – found you. #womenrock

  • Sammie Bordeaux-Seeger

    Thank you.

  • Jodi Danette Davis

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. Sexual harassment is instigated by women, as well in Indian country. I was on the receiving end of this at a tribe. And watched quietly as the perpetrator rose in the ranks. Adding insult to injury, she is white, I am Indian. I did as much as I could to try and advocate for myself and hopefully bring this to the attention of council to do the right thing around these kind of issues. I could not even get to the council. Blocked over and over, as well as warned how it could land infavorably upon me should I be heard. I studied the tribal codes and they clearly violated their own code, which was clearly documented in my grievance. Sometimes that freedom to change the codes as you go is dangerous and harms those it is theoretically meant to protect. (A whole other topic) The handling of my situation was a complete shit show. Hopefully this is not continuing to be swept under the rug there, yet I have little confidence that is case.The sexual harassment was gross and completely wrong, yet it was the way the tribe responded which was perhaps, most harmful to my soul. I was violated again by them. It was a betrayal by my own (this was not my own tribe. I am referring to Indian people collectively). I had been a good worker, active in the community, very dedicated to my people and pretty well regarded for many years. This has changed since then. I no longer take part in the Native community. I am still healing. This incident brought back trauma of a sexual attack from my past and I had to go on short term disability and eventually quit. I did get unemployment, despite quitting, so I guess they knew they made it impossible for me to continue working there and why… and would lose should they argue paying unemployment. It’s not much of a consolation. It concerns me this cycle of blame the victim is so woven in to many cultures. The only reason I don’t name names is I am fearful the repercussions for me would be too great. In fact, beyond my close family, friends, therapist and a couple attorneys, this is as public as I have been… even though I want to burst with it. All this said, the trust I have in my gut level knowing has become very strong and I honor that. I would stand up to any entity again if this type of violation were to occur, just saying the methods and games to protect those in power can be as, perhaps more harmful to the victim and the community at large.

  • JoAnne Breault

    Great perspective on a difficult topic. The victims are afraid to speak out. Power corrupts. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lois Cuckson

    This was heart-breaking to read, partly due to the familiarity. It seems no groups are free from covert harassers and those looking to abuse power – even if as a member of the group they are still marginalised by a larger society.

    The issue with abuse in activist circles (which I’ve experienced myself with members of Socialist groups) is that as you say, it’s hard to speak up against men perceived to be doing a lot of ‘good work’ or who are respected figures in the community. It’s almost swept aside as unimportant, and like the women they are abuse are just cannon fodder – not a real part of the movement. I’m so sorry that these issues are pervasive in your Native community as well, but the efforts of women to protect each other that you’ve outlined do give me hope.

  • How often do drugs and alcohol contribute to this loss of respect…for others and for ourselves? Probably nearly all the time!