The Silence Within: A Native voice in #MeToo

Emily Washines


The Silence Within: A Native voice in #MeToo, featuring a short film by Native Friends

*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.

    On Strength

    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 cries

      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.


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      The Silence Within: A Native Voice in #MeToo. Natives often face internal struggles from the silence within that hides in crevices at tribes. Native Friends made a film to serve as a call to action.


      *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. 

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