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More on Abortion Rights on the Pine Ridge Reservation


ICT [2006/06/26] Fire Thunder: Halting sexual violence should lead political agenda

This is an excellent article written by a Yakama Indian journalist for The Oregonian here in Portland. I like how she examines the basis of the conflict between men on the tribal council and women who voted for Fire Thunder and tradition. The rise of the abuse of women on the reservation has been the result of colonization and poverty that followed the loss of land and traditional social structures.

I find it ironic that it is now women who will be banished for attempting to have an abortions while Fire Thunder notes that traditionally men were banished for raping women.

"Most women on the Pine Ridge reservation, she said, know someone who has been raped. And the stories pour out as women across the reservation start to talk: stories about children bearing male relatives' babies.

Rape victims in particular, Fire Thunder said, need to have the option to terminate the resulting pregnancy.

'Having sex with a female member of your family was something that we banished for, speaking traditionally,' she said."

This is the unspoken subtext to the debate going on in the reservation.

Another quote, outlines the problem with men in power and why they will not look at the situation with compassion for the women of their tribe.

"Deb Rooks-Cook, who is chairwoman of Oglala Junior District on the Pine Ridge Reservation, remembers, calling on the council to take a stand against sexual violence 20 years ago.

But her dad, who served on the Pine Ridge Council in 1979 and 1980, told her not to expect any response. She remembered him saying, 'You're talking to the perpetrators.'

Two years ago, Rooks-Cook was part of the two-thirds majority who voted for Fire Thunder. "

I don't know if the council is still made up of "perpetuators" as her dad noted 25 years ago, but the inability of the community to deal in an effective manner about the issues of incest and rape denotes a deeply rooted conflict.

As a former program administrator for a teen pregnancy prevention program for Native American youth, I'd have to say that the social and personal cost of teen pregnancy is extremely high to the young woman, her family, her child, her grandchildren and the community. From personal family experience on the reservation, I can say that young women pay a heavy price for taking that route in life. And not just them, but the price in spirally poverty in each generation that follows is even higher. Tribal leaders need to look honestly at the social costs of teen pregnancy and protect children from rape, provide health care that the mother needs or wishes to have and provide real programs with proven success records to help young people build a better future for themselves.
Jacqueline Keeler
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