*Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment
How do we add Native voices to the #MeToo movement?
With regard to Natives and tribes, I am adding a voice and sharing a shortened version of my film "The Silence Within: Crevices at Tribes." Several months ago, in August, I wrote a poem and then made a short film. I did not foresee the magnitude of this topic on social media and news. Since October, sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement are daily headlines.
Earlier this week, TIME announced the 2017 person of the year as "The Silence Breakers." On the cover of the magazine is an arm, cut off at the shoulder. TIME writer, Melissa Chan said, ..."Her [annonymous] appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities."
Likewise, the main image from my film is a Native woman visible but still hidden. A Native Silence Breaker.
The Silence Within
Whether you or another chooses to speak publicly, is not for me to decide. Natives often face internal struggles from the silence within that hides in crevices at tribes. Sometimes, tribes can readily talk about the environment, but when it comes to protecting women in the workplace, there is often silence. I made a film to serve as a call to action. Let's use our voice to inspire and heal.
I was honored when my short film was screened at One Heart Native Art and Film Festival in September. Read more about that in my previous post.
When I move forward, I often look back. When I was 18, at the National Congress of American Indians, our elders and Yakama Nation Tribal Council stood before hundreds of tribes and sang a Warrior Song for me. They told me to never forget the strength of women of our tribe, as women fought in the Yakama War. There is a parallel of past Native women lacking visibility along with present Native women.
I look back and draw strength from these memories. In this path, we need to remember words of support. We each have many layers, which are built, torn and grown from experiences and relationships.
At the National-level
While there are more examples, here are some articles:
- The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) will receive future royalties from the film “Wind River.” This is a nonprofit that addresses Domestic Violence and Safety for Indian Women.
- In this 2016 article, Amber Crotty, from the Navajo Nation Council speaks Against Rape Culture in the Tribal Workplace.
- Native Appropriations, by Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation), wrote The Native Harvey Weinsteins.
- Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, said,"We need to talk about Native Americans, who have the highest rate of sexual violence in this country." (The Nation).
This is an echo of questions from strong women I referenced above helping lead this movement. Sometimes, this will be an internal question, sometimes it will be asked in the living room of friends. One day soon, it will be across many tribes.
How do we add Native American voices to this #MeToo awareness movement?
The Silence Within (Abridged)
The Silence Within: Crevices at Tribes
The silence within rumbles and shakes
Knock, knock he is here
What is he looking to take?
She opens the door
He earns trust by going to church
Wearing polo shirts and having a degree
Like all good sonny boys do
But this guy hurts women
The grossness of his words
Covers her like slime
The ugliness of his gossip
Roars through the town
She said no it’s not okay
She asks for help
The coldness of his actions chatters her teeth
It shoots holes through her dreams
As she tosses and turns through sleepless nights
Her shining career withers and dies
Because she said no, she is conflicted inside
Is it how I dress?
Do I point my lips?
Should I gain weight and shrink my voice?
Why is my body and brain causing problems for the good ol’ boys?
She waits, but there is silence
The warrior on horseback
With shiny arrowheads never comes
She prays to be her own warrior
Then the paperwork arrives
The written words cut her pay
There are other women helping the boys be boys
This hits her like arrows to the face
She realizes she is not a warrior alone
These women were asked to be silent before
She can see now clear as day
Their broken bows and promises made
The weapons of women
Lay on the ground piercing their hearts
Aren’t there worse things to endure?
Why should the cycle end with her?
What makes her so great?
The questions within them covers others shame
The silence within is a virus
It hides in crevices at tribes
And attacks Native women following their dreams
Go to school, get a job, help your tribe
But those glossy books don't say
How to say no, it’s not okay to so many
Or how to stop the quivers and questions
That infest their souls
From the silence within that rumbles and shakes
Thank you for your time. This is not an easy topic.
SHARE THE STORY:
If you liked this blog share it with others.
You can also like Native Friends on Facebook.
To get videos, visit the channel here.
Pin this or and check out Native Friends on Pinterest.
*Comment Policy: Please be respectful. Hyperfocus on Native-on-Native violence is not entirely relevant as instances occur within tribal communities and workplaces that include non-Natives.