Solidarity for Baby Veronica

Keep Veronica Home

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Written by the Denver Chapter of INCITE! and informed by the work of many, including Andrea Smith’s work in her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Please scroll to the bottom for action steps.

On June 25, 2013, Justice Alito issued a ruling on behalf of the U.S. Supreme Court stating the Indian Child Welfare Act was incorrectly applied by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which had previously given Dusten Brown custody of his biological child.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s order, the South Carolina Supreme Court immediately issued that Veronica’s adoption by the Capobianco family be finalized and she be transitioned back to her adoptive family. Chief Justice Toal refused all petitions for rehearing and closed the case, sending the ruling straight to the Charleston County Family Court to complete the transfer of Veronica from Brown to the Capobianco.  On July 31, 2013, the family court issued the Capobiancos with their official adoption decree.

Breaking news: According to USA Today, The Oklahoma Supreme Court has granted an emergency stay to keep a 3-year-old Cherokee girl with her biological father and heard arguments from his lawyers and those of the girl’s adoptive parents today, September 3rd, 2013, in a closed hearing. This case is not over yet and we must continue to spread awareness and advocate for Baby Veronica.

Why Denver INCITE! supports Baby Veronica:

1. Heteropatriarchal supremacy hurts all communities of color.

The Denver Chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence stands behind Dusten Brown as the rightful father of Baby Veronica and opposes the state’s continual displays of dominance over people of color and blatant disregard for the sovereignty of indigenous people. We must question the legitimacy of the settler nation’s actions and laws, which continue to promote colonialism and genocide. We fully believe that colonialism is not over and is demonstrated in cases such as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl which shows the bias and true function of the law. Although all communities of color are harmed in different ways, colonialism and patriarchy continue to be a threat to all people of color. In “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy”, Andrea Smith (scholar and co-founder of INCITE!) discusses how slavery, genocide, colonialism, orientalism, and war all function to support white heteropatriarchal supremacy. Additionally, adoption cases in the U.S. continue to tear apart indigenous families and families of color at disproportionate rates, due to the effects of criminalization and poverty resulting from capitalism and colonialism.

2. The law threatens feminism by undermining non-nuclear families.

How can progressives and feminists continue to fight for the “separation of church and state” when presidents such as George W. Bush have openly supported faith-based initiatives through organizations that attempt to separate families of color? The agency which Veronica’s birth mother contacted, Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency, is the same organization George W. Bush has publicly thanked. Furthermore, the attorney representing the Capobianco family is also representing the adoptive family of Baby Desari, which is another case in which a South Carolina family has attempted to seize a Native child. As Laura Briggs deduces, it seems suspicious that both children were displaced from their birth families by the state of South Carolina, which she explains is a state where to “have standing in an adoption case, fathers must have lived with the birth mother for at least six months prior to the birth of the child, and to have provided financial support, neither of which Brown had done.” Briggs further questions how feminists are not threatened by the notion of an unmarried father exercising his right to have a voice in the adoption case of his biological child. She explains how with 48 percent of children being born to single mothers, it is an attack to feminism that some states are claiming “ICWA should only apply when it disrupts an ‘existing Indian family,’ a standard that has been interpreted very narrowly—a married heterosexual couple living on a reservation”.  The state favors conservative notions of family, threatening both single parents and LGBTQ families.

In Andrea Smith’s book Conquest, she addresses how the “patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system based on domination and violence” and shares how “Karen Warren argues that patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system that mirrors the dysfunctional nuclear family”. If marriage is the only way to access the “privilege” of raising one’s own children, we see a narrow interpretation of civil liberties excludes many people. When the white heteropatriarchal state chooses to uphold law over bloodline connection, we see how the law fails to protect those of us who are most marginalized.

3. The theft of Baby Veronica echoes a long history of theft from Native people.

Smith also argues states that “in order to colonize a people whose society was not hierarchical, colonizers must first naturalize hierarchy through instituting patriarchy. Patriarchal gender violence is the process by which colonizers inscribe hierarchy and domination on the bodies of the colonized”. We see this institutional patriarchy play out repeatedly throughout history. For example, Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. William McIntosh (1823) has many parallels to Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013). The 1823 ruling stated that the “U.S. government holds exclusive rights to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or conquest”. The courts upheld that because Native people did not own land legally, the state could therefore claim ownership and grant ownership to other parties without consent of Native people. The Native inhabitants were seen as being people to be protected and relocated, while not granted the agency to own land. Similarly, we see the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, favoring the adoptive couple, making similar arguments below:

(a) Section 1912(f) conditions the involuntary termination of parental rights on a heightened showing regarding the merits of the parent’s “continued custody of the child.” The adjective “continued” plainly refers to a pre-existing state under ordinary dictionary definitions. The phrase “continued custody” thus refers to custody that a parent already has (or at least had at some point in the past). As a result, §1912(f) does not apply where the Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child. This reading comports with the statutory text, which demonstrates that the ICWA was designed primarily to counteract the unwarranted removal of Indian children from Indian families. See §1901(4). But the ICWA’s primary goal is not implicated when an Indian child’s adoption is voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custodial rights. Non-binding guidelines issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) demonstrate that the BIA envisioned that §1912(f)’s standard would apply only to termination of a custodial parent’s rights. Under this reading, Biological Father should not have been able to invoke §1912(f) in this case because he had never had legal or physical custody of Baby Girl as of the time of the adoption proceedings. Pp. 7–11.

The argument being made is that Brown did not have the right of custody to begin with and that ICWA does not protect a right that never existed. We see a connection between colonizers’ justification of land ownership as “established by God” and the modern day colonizers’ justification of ownership of a baby girl as “established by law”. In the words of Andrea Smith, “Native bodies will continue to be seen as expendable and inherently violable as long as they continue to stand in the way of the theft of Native lands”, or a child in this instance. Both Baby Veronica and Dusten Brown are being moved from the jurisdiction of one state to another, as agents owned and operated by U.S. empire.

4. The U.S. has a longstanding history of using Christian imperialism to take Native children from their homes and into boarding schools and forced adoptions.

Conservative concepts of what constitutes a family have been in existence since settler America, so much so that white supremacy and Christian imperialism are closely represented in the law. In the 17th century, Puritan missionaries attempted to “civilize” Natives by separating children from their indigenous biological families. Due to Grant’s Peace Policy in 1869, the state funded Christian missionaries’ attempts to colonize Natives through Christian imperialism. In 2013, we continue to see how white supremacy and Christian imperialism have worked hand in hand to uproot and dismiss Native sovereignty by taking the law into the state’s jurisdiction and not those of tribal courts.

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Welfare Act (ICWA), as a response to the absurd rate at which children were taken from tribes and put into foster care, adoption, and boarding schools. The majority of these children were taken because Native families did not conform to the dominant society’s view of nuclear family norms. For example, many Native children reside with many adults and extended family members, but because two biological parents are not in the picture, the state defines this type of parenting as “neglect”. Both cultural and physical assimilation have been and continue to be forced upon children. Although taking indigenous children from their Native homes initially began with the realization that cultural genocide is simply more affordable than physical genocide, violence began to be disguised as a form of charity from the church and the state, two historically violent and intertwined systems. We see the abduction of a child disguised as proper caretaking in a privileged Western mindset. The problem with the “white savior” is their inability to see damage caused due to misguided beliefs that one is “saving” a child from families that dare be in poverty or have non-nuclear definitions of families, rather than seeing the structural and historical roots that have caused poverty and annihilated both the resources and sovereignty of Native people. Christian right groups continue to organize against against ICWA, claiming it encourages abortion and stands in the way of adoption. This belief has led to an abduction of Indian children into the adoption and foster care system, continuing colonialism and keeping children from their ancestral and cultural roots. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs speaks to the shared blame of the state and the church in “the loss of language through forced English speaking, the loss of traditional ways of being on the land…and the learned behavior of despising Native identity.” Through adoption, the state attempts to extinguish indigenous people from history and existence.

5. The law will criminalize people of color to force them into submission.

“More than 30,000 courageous individuals came together to stand up for Veronica’s rights – we became her voice” is the motto of Save Veronica, a conservative organization backing the Capobiancos. Their website also exclaims “22 days – number of days Veronica has been kept illegally from her parents”. Twenty-two days and counting of “illegal” holding of a child contrasted to centuries of domination by the U.S. empire shows how the government continues to criminalize people of color for holding onto their humanity and rights. Propaganda used to incriminate Dusten Brown as partaking in “illegal” activity is similar to the way many people of color have been incriminated as aliens to the state. From undocumented immigrants being made to be “illegal” to the violence and incarceration of black/brown folks on the basis of racial profiling to the removal of a baby girl from her family and land, we are all threatened by the law and its limitations.

6. Our families are not safe when it is legally justifiable to separate them.

Coya White Hat- Artichoker draws a “parallel between what is happening to Native children in the United States and what is happening to immigrant children through the deportation process”.  In accordance with our founding pillars of unity, the Denver Chapter of INCITE! recognizes the state as the central organizer of violence which oppresses women of color and our communities. We recognize these expressions of violence against women of color as including colonialism, police brutality, immigration policies, and reproductive control.

7. The SCT decision denying the rights of the Cherokee Nation are based on a eugenicist blood quantum politics that racializes Native peoples rather than recognizing the sovereignty of Native nations.

According to Coya White Hat- Artichoker, “The Cherokee determine citizenship through lineage. Veronica’s membership in the Cherokee Nation is not defined by a measured blood quantum but rather she is Cherokee because her father is an enrolled member of the tribe.  As a citizen recognized by the Cherokee Nation, Brown’s parental rights should be protected by the ICWA, as that is the intent of the law.  It was designed to protect Native children and Indigenous nations by prioritizing adoptions from within the tribe.”

Jacqueline Keeler in Native Condition shares how “we must do away with blood quantum across the board. It taints Tribal Sovereignty and citizenship to thoroughly for the public to accept and those who want to reduce or eliminate tribal power are finding it a handy tool for turning public opinion against us. Even Supreme Court Justice Alito began his majority opinion saying, “this case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2 percent (3/256) Cherokee.” This despite the fact that the Cherokee Nation does not even use blood quantum as a requirement for membership but it was the question most asked by the Conservative Justices when considering the case. Justice Sotomayer in her dissent had to correct this presumption that blood and thus race were in anyway relevant to the decision at hand. But the writing is on the wall and in the Justice’s questions; blood quantum is political death for Tribes and we must give it the heave-ho.”

In Solidarity,

The Denver Chapter of INCITE!

_______________________________

What can we do? 

1. Tweet at Governor Mary Fallin @GovMaryFallin who signed extradition papers for Veronics’s biological father. Tell her you don’t agree with her comments:

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith. He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobiancos to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos. Finally, he has cut off negotiations with the Capobiancos and shown no interest in pursuing any other course than yet another lengthy legal battle.

“As governor, I am committed to upholding the rule of law. As a mother, I believe it is in the best interests of Veronica to help end this controversy and find her a permanent home. For both of these reasons, I have signed the extradition order to send Mr. Brown to South Carolina.” 

Email her here or call her at (405) 521-2342.

2. Contact Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who signed warrant for extradition of Dusten Brown. Call her at (803) 734-2100 or email her here.

2. Ask organizations that you are a part of to put out similar statements or sign onto ours to show support. This is an issue that threatens all of us.

3. Simply sign on to our statement by emailing suegene.park@gmail.com or leaving a comment in the comment box.

4. Educate others on this issue by tweeting #KeepVeronicaHome and sharing our statement.

5. Sign this petition to the White House and spread the petition widely among your organization’s members and friends!

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Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths

 

In honor of World Indigenous Peoples Day, Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action Foundation has officially launched Indigenous Young Women Speaking Our Truths, Building Our Strengths national project and gathering! Check it out:

Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths

November 18th to 21st, 2011 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Deadline to REGISTER is September 9th, 2011.

To read the information and register in Inuktitut, please click here

Want to speak your truth and build on your strengths? Are you a young Indigenous woman between the ages of 16 and 25? Whether you are already involved in your community or are just starting to learn about your Indigenous culture, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action Foundation invite you to join other young Indigenous women from across Canada to learn, share and have fun together!

This project offers opportunities to come together as sisters, with the inclusion of Elders and other traditional leaders in the spirit of unity to discuss what is happening, and act upon our vision of what needs to change in our communities. This is the time to be yourself, all of yourself and celebrate it!

This project is for and by:

Self- identified young Indigenous Women between the ages of 16-25, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, status or non-status, beneficiary or non-beneficiary. Those who identify as women, Trans, Two Spirit, or gender non-conforming are welcome.

What is the project about?

The Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths project focuses on Indigenous young women’s leadership, empowerment, building solidarity amongst each other and stopping violence. The project will focus on skill sharing and facilitation, emphasizing the fact that youth ideas matter and that youth are experts in their own right! We will also have opportunities to learn important teachings from our elders and other traditional teachers, with an understanding that women’s strength has always existed in our communities and continues to grow.

The project is also lead by a peer Advisory Committee consisting of ten Indigenous young women from across Canada.They are:

Amanda Darroch-Mudry
Erin Konsmo
Janice Grey
Jasmine Redfern
Jocelyn Formsma
Kari-Dawn Wuttunee
Krysta Williams
Lacey Whiteduck
Marie Holeiter
Theresa J Lightfoot

Mentorship

Opportunities will be created for different types of mentorship, both informal and formal. Mentorships will be created between Elders, traditional teachers and young women, and there will also be peer-to-peer mentorship as youth have important knowledge to learn from each other as well.

Community Actions

A key area that has been identified as part of this project is making sure there are opportunities to continue the work started at this gathering. Ten communities will be chosen to  use the skills, knowledge and mentorship gained from the project to implement local community actions! This is your chance to let your voices be heard, and act upon the changes you would like to see in your communities. More information on the community action opportunities will be provided at the gathering.

A 4-day gathering will explore key areas such as:

  • Stopping racism and violence
  • Reclaiming knowledge and teachings from Elders and moving into new traditions
  • Healthy sexuality
  • Pride in cultural diversity and difference
  • Leadership in all its forms
  • Arts for social change
  • Learning practical skills (How to start a youth council, grant writing, political leadership, becoming your own advocate)
  • Get to know your rights!
  • Skill-sharing
  • Self-care and burnout prevention
  • Plan community actions
  • Create resources
  • Keeping in touch after the gathering

Possible activities: workshops, concerts, talk show, fashion show, film night, giveaways, feasts, hip hop and more. Come ready to share and exchange your skills, talent or knowledge.

When & Where:

The gathering will take place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan between November 18th and 21st, 2011.

Accessibility: We will make every effort possible to meet the needs of all participants, including but not limited to language, mobility, disability and dietary needs. Please make note of this on the registration form. If you are selected to participate, we will work together to ensure accessibility needs are met.

Language: Please note that this gathering will be held mainly in English, French and Inuktitut. The Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action are committed to making the event accessible in these three languages, so let us know if you have a different language preference we will do our best to arrange for whispered translation.

Childcare: Where we can, we support the participation of those who would not be able to take part if their young child was unable to accompany them. Please make a note of this on the registration form where indicated and read our Policy for Children for more information.
There are NO fees to participate in Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths. If you are selected, we will cover your air travel and accommodation costs.

REGISTER NOW! Deadline to register is September 9th, 2011. Participants will be notified of acceptance by September 26th, 2011.

Registration forms can also be faxed to (514) 948-5926 or mailed to:

24 Mont Royal West Suite 601 Montreal, Quebec H2T 2S2 CANADA

For more information please contact Natasha@girlsactionfoundation.ca or call 1-888-948-1112

More information and registration in Inukitut is available here: http://www.girlsactionfoundation.ca/en/special-projects/indigenous-young-women-speaking-our-truths-building-our-strength.

Call for submissions: Online and printed zine about dealing with body/hair/size/fat phobia for and by Indigenous peoples and people of color

**PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY**

Call for submissions: Online and printed zine about dealing with body/hair/size/fat phobia for and by Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

Title: To be decided/announced.

Deadline: February 28th 2011

For far too long, I’ve have been made to always question my body. Always made to feel like if I waxed my sideburns/shaved my legs/signed up for weightwatchers/stopped eating so much roti, that I would live up to the potential of how beautiful I could be. I have learnt that these issues not only represent a complex fear of hair or fat, but is also emblematic of what my body represents as a queer brown body, constantly threatening whiteness, conformity and concepts of beauty that idealize skinny, hairless, colonized white bodies; among many other things. The internalized hate and racism that our communities and peoples have is destroying us, forcing us to dislike and alter our bodies, putting it through further violence and trauma.

As I have been attempting to work through this, I have had the honour of meeting so many beautiful Indigenous people and people of colour who constantly work hard at breaking down these ideas, who survive, love themselves and each other everyday for who they are. We need to share our struggles and triumphs; we need to know we aren’t alone in this. There are many people who have stories, facts, advice and successes on these issues to share with others.

For these reasons and more, with consultation from many over the past two years, I want to put together this zine for Indigenous people and people of colour to share, read, write, listen, learn, realize, question and start a path to working towards realizing how sexy and beautiful we already are.

Who? Self-identified Indigenous peoples and people of colour*, mixed race people* who have something to say about fat/size/hair/body image shit. (I’m talking about size, hair (both body and on your head) and anything else that affects your body/self love/ability to love others.

What? Submit art, writing, prose, poetry, essays, collages, lyrics, photos, stuff you’ve created that can be put in a zine (online) and photocopied to give out in printed copies.

Why? We need to address size/fat/hair phobia and our bodies, colonization, histories and provide resources and support for each other.

How? Please send all submissions to thisisourzine@gmail.com with SUBMISSION as the subject. If it can’t be emailed, email us and we will figure out a way to get your work submitted.

*= it’s important to remember how complex categories of race, sexuality, gender and identity are, and when I say self-identified Indigenous people and people of colour and mixed race people, I mean that if you identify as a person of colour or Indigenous person, but may not necessarily present phenotypically as a person of colour, we want you to submit to the zine.

Obviously we all have different experiences/understandings of how race, body image, sexuality, gender, ability, class, eating disorders, geography, status, etc. etc. come together and shape how we understand these issues, which will be an important string throughout this zine.

About me:

You are probably wondering: ‘who is this random person wanting me to share my work with them?’ Good question. My name is Aruna, I am a 23 year old fat brown woman identified first generation settler that is living on the occupied lands of the Mississauga’s of New Credit. I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, but am now back living with my parents in Scarborough; and this is my first zine ever, and think that this topic is incredibly important and something that people need to start talking about with each other. I’m not claiming ownership over this and want this to be a collective/loving/healing process with everyone involved. I have a lot of issues around my weight and in the process of trying to look for something to comfort and help me work through my shit, I never found anything useful. I think a project like this, if done properly will be useful to lots of people in a similar situation.

Remember! Deadline is February 28th 2011, all submissions and inquiries about submissions should be relayed to thisisourzine@gmail.com.

In your submission, please include:

-       Your name (or name you want to be published)

-       RELIABLE Contact information (in case we need to talk to you about your work)

-       A brief (50-100 word) bio or description of who you are/what you do, etc. (if you want to include it)

-       Please make sure all attachments are either in PDF, JPEG, Word, RTF, BMP or any other compatible program.

-       Your piece/submission should be in an attachment, not copy/pasted into the email. (If you have trouble with attachments, email us for help!)

Want to submit? Get involved in the planning/making of the zine?

Wanna start a larger group out of this?

Got concerns, questions, etc?

Email me at thisisourzine@gmail.com to talk and if you’d like to get involved.

Here are some points to get you thinking about the issues I feel could be repped in this zine. A couple of points have been borrowed from another callout for ‘Occupied bodies’ by Tasha Fierce that I felt was relevant to our zine.

These are merely some starting questions, submissions should in no way feel limited to this:

-       How do you embrace/love your body?

-       What tips do you have to lessen the blows from people who hate on your fat/hair/self

-       How is loving your body an act of sovereignty or decolonization (if at all)?

-       Has your self-esteem/dislike of your body hurt your sex life? How does it stop you from exploring yourself or new partners because of fear of rejection?

-       How does being mixed race affect your body image and how you see yourself? How are you excluded from these discussions because of being mixed race?

-       Does the hair and fat phobic ways of the porn industry make you angry?

-       What images of yourself were instilled in you by your parents/guardians/other family members when you were a young child?

-       If you’re queer or two-spirit, how has being two-spirit or queer of color affected your self-image and how you desire your partner to look?

-       How has your gender (whatever that may be) affected how you understand your body, or how you have been forced to see your body?

-       If you’ve had partners who were also Indigenous or of colour, did/do you gaze upon them with the same critical eye you reserve for yourself? Why or why not?

-       Have you ever worried that your choice of partners reflected negative understandings of your own bodies/self?

-       If you’re a Trans people of colour or Indigenous person, how was your perception of your gender identity shaped? How has your self/body image changed over the years and have there been any other shifts in your thinking about your self/body image?

-       How has ability and access affected your image? Affected how you love yourself?

-       What positive or negative encounters with adults as a child helped shape that image?

-       How has your body image/size phobia issues been treated in the medical field? How has mental health played a part in it?

-       What connections do you see between colonialism and your body?

-       If you weren’t born on or feel connection to Turtle Island/occupied lands that we call ‘North America’, how has the place you came from/identify with determined your ideas around your body?

-       How did the media you consumed as a child/teen shape your body/self image today? How does it complicate it? How does the media you consume NOW affect your body/self image?

-       How did pressure from family and friends affect the way you perceived yourself after you were old enough to take care of yourself?

-       How did you feel about societal beauty and body standards as a teen? Did you rebel, or conform by any means necessary to avoid confrontation?

-       How has the globalization and dissemination of the Western beauty ideal affected you and Indigenous peoples/people of colour worldwide?

-       Debunk this: “in some cultures they ______”, – deconstructing a commonly held belief about an ethnic group’s relation to body (such as the black community supposedly being OK with fat).

The list goes on and on and is by no means complete…email us for more help if needed.

For more info, write to thisisourzine@gmail.com or check out the original call for submissions, found here.

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Decriminalization of sex work and Indigenous youth and communities – Response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network

Decriminalization of sex work and Indigenous youth and communities – a response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network on the recent Ontario Superior Court Decision

October 5, 2010 (Toronto) – The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) would like to express our support of the recent Ontario Superior Court decision to strike down three aspects of the criminalization of sex work which include: living off of the avails of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy-house and communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. However, given the lack of Indigenous voices during this process, there is some confusion as to what this could mean for Indigenous people here and now.

As a North America wide organization working in the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health by and for Indigenous youth, NYSHN is particularly concerned with the ways in which Indigenous youth perspectives and rights as sex workers are generally not taken into account. In this case, it was not Indigenous people bringing this court challenge forward and unfortunately our voices have not been heard well.

However, this decision has the potential to actually mean less violence for Indigenous communities, not only because it allows for safer working conditions for sex workers, it also means less police interference. Given that Indigenous communities face racial profiling and police brutality as an everyday lived experience, as well as extremely high rates of incarceration, this is of utmost importance to our safety. Current estimates state that Aboriginal people make up more than 20% of the total prison inmate population across Canada, which is a full ten times more than the general population.

If sex workers are able to live off of the money they earn, they may be able to afford shelter, better provide for their families, or be able to hire someone else, such as a driver, as protection. If they are able to openly communicate about sex work, they may be able to negotiate safer working conditions (such as condom use) with a client or report violence without fear of being arrested. If keeping a bawdy-house is no longer illegal, then sex workers may have access to indoor working conditions, decreasing the chances of street-based violence. If police are given less opportunity to arrest people on the basis of these laws, it means less Indigenous people that are incarcerated because of sex work. These are just a few examples of how this ruling has the potential to reduce violence.

However, as stated by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) this ruling does not adequately address the systemic racism and classism as well as a fundamental power imbalance and issues of inequality, which are realities for Indigenous youth in Canada. Given the amount of prejudice and discrimination faced by Indigenous communities, it is imperative that we are included and heard throughout all policy-making processes, not only for our own safety and security but also as a best practice when making decisions that disproportionately affect us.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we recognize that Indigenous youth are over policed, but under protected. High rates of arrest and incarceration are a reality, yet there still has been no justice for the over 500 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. For Indigenous women who do engage in sex work, there is a double discrimination that is experienced because of the overlapping prejudices of racism associated with being Indigenous, and societal stigma associated with engaging in sex work. This increases the risk of violence, which means in order to protect Indigenous women; we need to consider decriminalization in the context of also stopping racism. That being said, decriminalization is still one of the many steps that the courts and lawmakers must take to respect the self-determination of Indigenous sex workers.

Media Contact:
Jessica Yee, Executive Director
jyee@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

http://nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission to collect statements from Two Spirits at historic GLBT gathering

From Native Youth Sexual Health Network & NativeOUT:

PRESS RELEASE

Truth and Reconciliation Commission to collect statements from Two Spirits at historic GLBT gathering

Winnipeg, MB – Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. and the Two-Spirited People of Manitoba (TSPM) have partnered to host the 22nd Annual International Two Spirit Gathering (Sep 3-6) at a retreat centre near Winnipeg. Approximately 100 Aboriginal/Native American gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from across Canada and the US will gather in early September to participate in an alcohol and chemical free event which is focused on healing, ceremony, cultural revitalization and social strengthening.

In North America, Two Spirit people continue to be marginalized because of homophobia, transphobia, poverty and racism. A recent Two Spirit study by the University of Manitoba reported forced mobility from rural communities; and a need for community activities and events that are not alcohol or bar-based, that include cultural components and are respectful of sex and gender diversity. The Assembly of First Nations in its recommendation below advocates for increased understanding and protection for GLBT community members.

Recognize the role of Two Spirit (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) First Nations’ peoples. The solution [to discrimination] is to educate people on the traditionally respected role that Two-Spirit First Nations’ peoples played in most communities, and to thus remove the stigma that has been associated with this group.

- AFN HIV/AIDS Action Plan (2001)

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will also be on hand to collect statements about the impact of the Indian Residential Schools. Little is known about the experiences of GLBT people in the IRS system. The four-day agenda will include cultural activities, health and wellness sessions, leadership building, anti-homophobia and human rights training, and networking opportunities. A youth stream will be facilitated by Jessica Yee, Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. A press conference will be held 11:00 am on Wed., August 25, 2010 at Ka Ni Kanichihk, 455 McDermot, Winnipeg.

LIVE BLOG DURING THE EVENT!

Native Youth Sexual Health Network will be hosting a live blog again during the 22nd International Two Spirit Gathering taking place in Beausejour, Manitoba on one of our partner’s site the LGBT Youthline.

Our youth delegation will be sharing their thoughts, hopes, dreams, experiences, frustrations, and more here:
http://www.youthline.ca/blog/?p=539

Be sure to check back all weekend and especially next week when everything goes up on our blog!

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Media Contacts:
Albert McLeod, Co-Director, TSPM
H: 204-783-6424 C: 204-330-8671
E-mail: twospiritedmanitoba@hotmail.com
Website: http://nativeout.com/itsg/

Jessica Yee
Executive Director, The Native Youth Sexual Health Network
Chair, National Aboriginal Youth Council, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network
E-mail: jessica.j.yee@gmail.com
E-mail: jyee@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com
Website: www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

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Language & Action – 8/21/10

Language & Action spotlights analysis, news, & performance from around the blogosphere that shine a light on critical ideas and action addressing violence against women of color.  Check out the findings for our second installment below!  Plus, woo hoo, thanks for the submissions!  Keep em coming!  If you have suggestions for things to include, please send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com or float it in the comment section…

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Race, beauty, disability, and symbolism:

Wheelchair Dancer discusses the tension between beauty politics, disability, and the use of a photograph of a woman as an argument for waging war.  She analyzes the recent TIME cover photo of Aisha, a young Afghan woman:

Regardless of how disability plays out in Aisha’s world, the vast majority of readers of TIME live in a culture that understands disability as tragedy. As shocking. As among the worst things that can happen to you (bar death). Mainstream American culture thinks it knows disability and knows how to read it. Ms. Bieber has a history of photographing disabled bodies (there’s an image of a wheelchair user in this video of her “Real Beauty” pictures). But the work she does in the Real Beauty series does not come through in this photograph — perhaps because of the context and placement of the image. Here she (and or the editor) uses Aisha’s disability to trade upon the readership’s sympathies and their horror: this and other unknown kinds of disability are a direct result of the US departure from Afghanistan. This is not about Aisha; it’s about the message of the article.

That women’s rights will be at risk, should the US leave Afghanistan is really not a debatable issue. In fact, looking at Aisha’s story, it seems pretty clear that women’s rights are at risk even while the US is in Afghanistan. So why does the story need Aisha’s disability?

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Legislation to address violence against Native women is signed:

On the Ms. blog, Native feminists without apology, Jessica Yee & Sarah Deer, discuss the recent passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, which addresses violence against Native Women:

JY: What is the most important part of this bill for people to know about?

That it requires Indian Health Service (IHS) to train their employees on how to respond to rape. That, to me, is huge. The experiences of Native women at IHS when they are raped or sexually assaulted are horrible, and for IHS not to know what to say or do in these instances is unconscionable. The bill now requires them to go on record with policy and procedure–and if that is the only thing that the bill accomplishes, we can be glad for that.

JY: Is there anything you would change about the bill?

SD: I’m always concerned about “law and order” language. It certainly doesn’t protect or help white women, so it’s not going to help Native women. We have to make sure that the systems we set up are Native women-centered.

I wish the bill had language overturning the destructive 1978 Oliphant decision, which concluded that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians. It’s not acceptable to have a non-Native person to come into the tribe and not be held accountable by the tribe.

JY: A thing that somewhat troubles me about the bill is a lot on criminalization and penalization. I’m a prison abolitionist in many senses and I’m very aware of how many Indigenous people are in the criminal justice system unfairly; but more importantly, that these entire systems are not our laws and not our systems.

SD: I agree with you 100 percent. You have to constantly challenge the idea that the Western criminalization system is the answer–it’s actually the cause of our problems. It’s difficult for people to understand that in order to change this, we have to give back sovereignty to tribes.

I’m so pleased that we are now collectively trying to keep things safer in our own communities–we don’t have to replicate white law and order.

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Economic justice in LGBT movement building

In an interview with Harmony Goldberg at Organizing Upgrade, FIERCE Executive Director Rickke Mananzala describes the future of LGBT organizing that includes an emphasis on coalition building for economic justice:

There are pockets of left and progressive LGBT groups that are trying to advance demands outside of the mainstream movement, like the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and FIERCE.  Many of these groups are part of a newly formed national alliance of progressive LGBT organizations – the Roots Coalition – that is trying to figure out how to take advantage of these openings. We are trying to figure out what opportunities exist for more progressive national fights. We are looking at both the mainstream issues that are already on the table that we might be able to win immediately and new issues that will push the LGBT movement to the left.

We are doing that by intentionally choosing issues that have an LGBT lens and that – if won – will also impact many other communities. In particular, we are looking to build a stronger bridge between fights focused on LGBT issues with those that are focused on racial and economic justice.  An example of a fight we could consider taking up is the struggle around the impending reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), specifically challenging the expansion of the marriage promotion programs that Obama has been pushing.  The current economic crisis has increased the need for welfare programs, but the marriage promotion requirements and strict definitions of family present structural barriers that limit LGBT families’ abilities to access the resources they need to survive.

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A couple of exciting calls for submissions:

Call for submissions: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism – Feminist education now: youth, activism, and intersectionality:

I’m really interested in talking about the intersectionality of feminist education and breaking down the barriers of what constitutes “education”, where that might be, and according to whom. Education does not have to solely be within a school or school-type setting – if it happened on the street, in your kitchen, if it’s not happening at all, if you want it to happen some particular place – I want to hear about it.

Deadline is September 10, 2010.  Contact Jessica Yee at jessica.j.yee@gmail.com for more info.

Call for Submissions on Addiction & Recovery:  Substance: On Addiction and Recovery is a collection of peoples’ experiences with addiction and recovery in radical and/or marginalized communities.

In addition to pieces by individuals, I’d like to include a few pieces about the work that community-based groups have done to address the politics of addiction and recovery and to support those dealing with substance abuse. If you are a member of such a group, please feel free to write.

Deadline is March 7, 2011.  Contact Emily at substancebook at gmail dot com for more information.

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International Indigenous Women’s Environmental and Reproductive Health Symposium Declaration

International Indigenous Women’s Symposium
Declaration for Health, Life and Defense of Our Lands, Rights, and Future Generations

International Indigenous Women's Symposium

We, Indigenous women from the regions of North America, Latin America,  the Arctic, Caribbean and the Pacific, gathered June 30th to July 1st, 2010 at the INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENTAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SYMPOSIUM, in Alamo, California, hosted by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the North-South Indigenous Network Against Pesticides.

We recognize and thank the Indigenous Peoples of this land called California for welcoming us to their beautiful land.

We are traditional healers, midwives, youth and community organizers, environmental and human rights activists, teachers and traditional and cultural leaders.  We are daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers and great grandmothers, youth and elders, members of great Nations who have always stood firm to defend our lands, our Peoples and our cultures.

We work in our communities, homes, health centers, tribal and traditional governments and Indigenous organizations, on the local, national and international levels.  We recognize and appreciate the important contributions that all of us, and many other Indigenous women around the world are making to defend our lands, rights and the health of future generations, as well as the generations who have come before us.

We have come together at this Symposium to share our information about the negative impacts of mining and drilling, mercury contamination, nuclear and uranium testing, processing and storage, pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), military dumping, toxic waste incineration, desecration of sacred sites and places,introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and foods and harvesting of our genetic materials.  We have listened to each other’s stories, and have also seen the tragic effects within our own families, communities and Nations of the environmental, economic,social and cultural impacts of toxic contamination.

These imposed, deplorable conditions violate the right to health and reproductive justice of Indigenous Peoples, and affect the lives, health and development of our unborn and young children. They seriously threaten our survival as Peoples, cultures and Nations.  They also violate our rights as Indigenous Peoples to subsistence, spiritual and cultural survival, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As Indigenous Peoples, and as the defenders of our future generations,we have vocalized our opposition to these forms of contamination of our homelands, air and waters for generations in many different regions, but far too often we are ignored.

We have also shared our strategies and ideas about how to address these situations in our communities and around the world.  We recognize that our fundamental, inherent and inalienable human rights as Indigenous Peoples are being violated, as are our spirits and life giving capacity as Indigenous women. Colonization has eroded the traditional, spiritual and cultural teachings passed down from our ancestors, our grandmothers about our sexual and reproductive health and their connection to the protection of the environment, our sacred life-giving Mother Earth.  But we also recognize and affirm that many Indigenous women are reclaiming, practicing and celebrating these teachings. We commit to supporting these collective efforts now and in the future.

We have agreed to present the following values and principles that we recognize as a basis of this work as well as our collective recommendations for action, which we hopecan begin to address the devastating inter-linking impacts we are facing in our communities and Nations, and bring about positive change.

We therefore adopt by consensus this DECLARATION for the health, survival and defense of OUR LANDS, OUR RIGHTS and our FUTURE GENERATIONS.

We recognize and affirm the following:

Indigenous women are life givers, life sustainers and culture holders.  Our bodies are sacred places that must be protected, honored and kept free of harmful contaminants in order for the new generations of our Nations to be born strong and healthy.

If the Earth Mother and the Sky Father are not healthy, neither are we.

Indigenous Peoples’ lands, waters and air and all living beings are being misused and poisoned by corporations, States and their Territories, based on foreign and colonial concepts that disregard the sacredness of life.

Indigenous Peoples, and in particular women and children, are suffering the detrimental, devastating, multi-generational and deadly impacts of environmental toxins and contaminates that were unheard of in our communities prior to industrialization.

These impacts include:

Contamination of mothers’ breast milk at 4 to 12 times the levels found in the mother’s body tissue in some Indigenous communities;

Elevated levels of contaminates such as POPs and heavy metals in infant cord blood;

Disproportionate levels of reproductive system cancers of the breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate and testicles, including in young people;

Elevated rates of respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung disease;

High levels of leukemia and other cancers in infants, children and youth;

Rare, previously unknown forms of cancer among all ages in our communities;

Devastating, and in many cases, fatal birth defects known to be associated with environmental toxins such as nuclear waste, mining, and pesticides, including the increasing birth of “jelly babies” in the most contaminated areas;

Developmental delays, learning disabilities and neurological effects on babies and young children which have lifelong impacts, associated with prenatal exposure to mercury, pesticides and other environmental toxins;

Increasing numbers of miscarriages and stillbirths, and high levels of sterility and infertility in contaminated communities.

The knowledge to heal our Peoples is within our own Peoples.  While many diseases caused by colonization may need to be addressed by western medicine, we know that our own healing knowledge and practices, passed down to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, is essential for the healing of our Peoples and our Mother Earth.

The protection of our health, lands, resources including air and water, languages, cultures, traditional foods and subsistence, sovereignty and self-determination and the transmission of our traditional knowledge and teachings to our future generations are inherent and inalienable human rights.  These rights are affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards, and must be upheld, respected and fully implemented by States (countries) and their Territories, UN bodies,corporations and Indigenous Peoples of the world.

Sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our lands, territories and resources are intricately connected to sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our bodies, minds and spirits.

Protection of our human rights and the rights of all forms of life must be a priority for environmental and reproductive justice work.

We have seen that the introduction of extractive industries (mining, drilling, logging etc.) has resulted in increased sexual violence  and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls in many communities, as well as increased alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections, divisions among our families and communities, and a range of other social and health problems.

While many communities have maintained traditional systems which continue to value women’s leadership, sexism in the larger society has had negative and lasting impacts within many Indigenous communities, including lack of recognition for the leadership role of Indigenous women in working for environmental protection and building strong communities.

The impacts of internalized colonization further include the loss of knowledge, awareness and access for Indigenous women to traditional reproductive health practices, birthing knowledge and healing practices, and even includes the criminalization of Indigenous midwives, healers and other traditional Indigenous health practices in many countries.

Foods distributed as commodities and other food aid programs by Government programs in Indigenous and tribal communities are unhealthy.  They contain contaminates, GMO’s and ingredients that cause food related diseases and adverse health effects including diabetes and obesity.   Impacts of economic marginalization and poverty on Indigenous families and communities must be taken into account.  However the recognition and application of Food Sovereignty, including access to our traditional lands and resources and food related cultural practices, are the only real solutions to the food needs of Indigenous Peoples.

Based on the above principles and values of shared agreement, we respectfully recommend to Indigenous communities, tribal governments and the leaders of our Nations, to the States and their Territories in which we live, to corporations and institutions, and to the United Nations system and international bodies, the following actions:

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