Systemic oppression of Indigenous women and Two Spirit individuals, and discrimination that is specifically rooted in colonialist mindsets, has led to the invisibility of Indigenous people’s leadership, work, and voices in the public consciousness.
Due to the historical and current marginalization of Indigenous populations, and due to the United States’ outdated policy on Indigenous tribal sovereignty, which makes it almost impossible for tribal law enforcement to prosecute non-Indigenous offenders, men and people who perpetrate violence against Indigenous women often face minimal or no legal consequences for their actions. In a National Institute of Justice report on violence against Indigenous women, 97% of the women surveyed (n=2,473) stated that the perpetrators (those who choose to do harm) were non-Indigenous men.
Perpetrators who have assaulted, murdered, or trafficked Indigenous women often walk free because law enforcement dismiss a countless number of cases. This lack of accountability leads perpetrators to feel empowered to continue gender based violence, causing the murder rate of Indigenous women in some tribal communities to be 10 times higher than the national average. The National Institute of Justice report also indicates that 56% of the Indigenous women who were surveyed reported that men have perpetrated sexual violence against them. Learn more here:
- Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women MMIW Resources
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center MMIW Resources
- Sovereign Bodies Institute MMIW Reports and Research
This violence also encompasses Two Spirit individuals. Two Spirit is “an English term that emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg. It describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native American, Canadian First Nations, and Indigenous groups” (Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition). Gender based violence, including sexual assault and physical violence, is committed against 78% to 85% of Indigenous Two Spirit individuals.* In addition to the systemic racism directed towards them by society, Two Spirit individuals are also the target for harmful patriarchal beliefs regarding gender identity. Learn more here:
- Minnesota Two-Spirit Society
- Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits
- NativePLAG, Phoenix
- East Coast Two-Spirit Society
- Montana Two Spirit Society
*Culture, Trauma, and Wellness: A comparison of Heterosexual and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit Native Americans. Kimberly F. Balsam, Bu Huang, Karen C. Fieland,Jane M. Simoni, and Karino Walters. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology Copyright 2004 by the Educational Publishing Foundation, Vol 10, No. 3, 287-301.