The pain and hurt every Indigenous woman beats with one heartbeat of nation builders every time we hear of another sister being taken, another sister being found. What is so sad is this is the history of us and a stupid legacy we carry in our DNA. The historical trauma is hard enough, but knowing it still happens today, is tough.
From the time Columbus landed he was taking women and young boys and girls for sex slaves to sell to his own men, some as young as 9 years old. Crimes unheard of and unspeakable to Indigenous people.
This history continued throughout the years as children were taken from parents from age 4 to 18 when they were sent back home. Taken to militarized boarding school, haircut, spirits ripped apart, made to work and be sex slaves still to the nuns, priests, and government officials. Beaten for refusing sex, speaking their language, trying to run home.
I remember stories from home of little girls being shaved bald as punishment and shoe polish painted on their freshly shaved heads as they were made to parade in front of other students. Children being beaten for seeking solace with their siblings because that is all they had, men losing their virginity to nuns, young children being beaten on their bare bottoms with paddle boards and made to kneel on dried beans. Kids being beaten for eating fresh vegetables from the gardens they planted for the people who ran the schools as they were only given corn meal mush to eat. Children forced to eat off the floor for not eating the mush up. Many of these schools are funded to this day by the government and many are also the religious schools put in place to “kill the Indian but save the man.”
They took our close family structure away and taught many of us their way of abuse, causing generations to turn to alcohol for comfort as they were ashamed of their childhoods being ripped apart then they judge us as a people for the lifestyles they beat into our ancestors.
That is how they got us, they couldn’t beat our Lakota people, and Custer proved that so they got us where it hurts. They killed our women and children at Wounded Knee and took the babies who survived. And today they judge our parenthood by taking our children away and putting them in foster homes where many of the same crimes are committed against them.
Growing up with historical trauma causes a very troubling childhood and is also probably one of the many reasons why they never believe us when one of our own go missing. Cops often never take it serious, even tribal cops. When my cousin Emily Bluebird disappeared she was murdered the same night. The cops didn’t search for her, thinking she was partying. It took the people to form a search group and find her body weeks later.
To this day my cousin Larissa Lone Hill has been missing for over a year and no action being taken by any cops or feds.
There are so many women out there whose families are missing them and men too and the police will not take it serious. When a Caucasian American woman disappears it is on every news channel. It makes me wonder if people ever think about the families of the Indigenous and people of color, but they wouldn’t know as we barely ever get media coverage other than local.
It is like the current sale and outrage and shock of the Anne Frank costume being pulled from the shelves. Everyone had a problem with it. No one cares that we get mad over the hyper sexualized costumes of how we are portrayed as Native women, they only care because in their eyes the holocaust by Hitler was the only one while they don’t realize the history of American genocide is where he was influenced to kill people by ethnic cleansing, or whatever term they use to make murder sound better in their heads.
I have to say it has been a long time since I have written. Dealing with personal affairs, being a new grandmother to a beautiful granddaughter, and health issues threw a writer’s block my way. However it is for Amelia, my granddaughter that I write. She is a future nation builder and she has a grandma spirit. The other day she tried to put something in her “Indian purse” and it fell out. I giggled at her because she forgot she is brand new and don’t wear bras yet. When she was born my friend Renee Holt looked at her and said look, she has grandma’s eyes. And while Amelia is only one she is wise beyond her years and has the voice of a little grandma. I can almost hear her yelling bingo.
It is for her I am diving off a high board to write again. A few weeks ago we was leaving Walmart in this small town I live in in Minnesota. There was my daughter in law who is pregnant with my second grandchild (due in January) and Amelia and I. We left Walmart and went to pick up my youngest son who was at work. On the way there a car with two white men pulled up behind us. It was about 8:30 at night. They laid on their horn, we ignored them. As we pulled up to the second stop sign, they passed us, it was maybe 100 yards between the stop signs. They then shot across the divided highway and went on a service road, driving pretty fast. We turned west on the highway to go to my sons job. It was then I realized they were chasing us from the service road. There was a car at the stop sign on the service road to the highway so they had to wait. My heart was racing. We went up a hill and I saw them weaving through traffic to get to us. As they pulled up right behind us, I started praying and grabbed Amelia’s hand in the back seat. Protect us, I kept saying over and over in my prayers. I looked at Amelia and her eyes were big and fearful and it broke my heart that in this day and age, at the age of one, she knew that fear so many of us women know.
The car started to pass us and my daughter in law rolled down her window. I have a baby in the car she hollered at them. She took notes as to how they looked. They pulled in front of us and stopped short. I was thankful we just had new brakes put in. At the stop light they turned right, the way to my sons work so we turned right too. As we pulled into the factory he works at they were waiting for us at the turn on the far end of the parking lot and we jumped out of the van with Amelia and ran to the factory where she borrowed a phone to call the cops.
They pulled into the parking lot, spun out and squealed out of there. They saw us. They knew we were women and a baby. I’m not sure why they did it other than to put fear into us. They knew our skin was darker. They may have followed us out of Walmart. I remember finally crying as we waited 20 minutes for the cops to show up. He took a report, we never heard anything back about the incident.
This was about a month after they found the body of Savannah Greywind. I remember thinking, if they put this much fear into my heart, imagine women like Savannah, Emily, Lakota Renville, Larissa Lone Hill and all the other countless, unnamed women who are Missing and Murdered indigenous Women, imagine what they felt or still feel to this day. I cried myself to sleep that night because of the fear, the women, the MMIW, my granddaughter, my daughter in law. I cried because I was used to being a tough mean woman because of the generations before me. I cried because like many women I was never free of the shame and pain of sexual assault at a young age. I cried because of the rape culture in the world and I cried for all the silent tears that were shed over the last 500 years since Columbus landed.
I cried because in this country we are not counted and that is how they are still trying to “kill the Indian.” with the nation builders. The hearts of our nation, the women. Then I thought, we came from generations of nation builders. Everyday another Indian is born there is another grandmother entering the nation builders. We are strong, we are an empire. This is also in our DNA. And I started writing again.
I will be writing on MMIW, I would love to hear your stores, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to MMIW and future nation builders.
By Dana Lone Hill