Longform investigative journalism remains awesome
October 8, 2011 2:52 PM   Subscribe

According to national statistics, one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes. Vanguard correspondent Mariana Van Zeller travels to Rosebud reservation in South Dakota to investigate the alarmingly high incidence of rape and sexual assaults. What happened to 19-year-old Marquita, and how can the reservation's understaffed police force keep it from happening again? Candid interviews with her family members, classmates and police reveal many of the disturbing social attitudes and behaviors that lead up to her death. It is one of many compelling guides to the kinds of lives most never see in Current TV's season before last of Vanguard. (previously)

Previous episodes found here

Season 4

Episode 4: Soccer's Lost Boys, Human trafficking of African boys for soccer
As South Africa prepared to host the 2010 World Cup, the focus was on many of the continent’s brightest stars in soccer, including Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Inter Milan’s Samuel Eto’o. Correspondent Mariana van Zeller explores the dark side to the sport’s global popularity, what has been called “the new slave trade.”
Episode 5: War Crimes, Rise of PTSD among war veterans
Correspondent Kaj Larsen investigates the alarming rise in the number of soldiers who have been traumatized by war and are now accused of bringing the violence home. Of the more than two million men and women who have served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as many as a third of them may now have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. A growing number of these vets are being charged with violent crimes, and Kaj travels to prisons and mental health facilities in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon to hear their stories.
Episode 6: American Jihadi, American-born Somali terrorist Omar Hammami (update)
Vanguard correspondent Christof Putzel explores homegrown terrorism in "American Jihadi." The show chronicles the path of Omar Hammami, a high school student from Daphne, Alabama who became a top commander in an Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group.
With the help of Omar's high school friend, Christof retraces Omar's path to extremism -- from Daphne, where he converted to Islam, to Toronto where he immersed himself into the local Somali community, and finally his journey to Egypt and Somalia.

Episode 7: Life and Death on the Border, Illegal crossing of the US/Mexico border
Correspondent Christof Putzel travels to the U.S./Mexico border to investigate one of the most contentious issues in America today: immigration. Meeting with "coyotes," the hired smugglers who offer to take immigrants across the border for a fee, Putzel learns the methods used to evade border patrol and the dangers they face on the journey. Arrest and deportation are inherent risks, but the lack of water and scorching temperatures of the desert crossing are far more deadly. Those who do make it safely across the border face tightening immigration laws and an increasingly hostile public. Putzel ultimately crosses the border with a migrant and coyote.
Episode 8: Marijuana Wars Part 1, Mexican drug trafficking organizations growing marijuana in the US
Episode 9: Marijuana Wars Part 2, Taking down low-level planters and high-level financers
In this two-part episode, executive producer and correspondent Adam Yamaguchi embeds with a task force working to take down Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in the U.S. California has become one of the leading producers of marijuana in the world, and the proceeds from marijuana have become a cash cow for traffickers, generating greater profits than cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin combined. The task force surveys and eradicates multi-million dollar marijuana fields in the U.S. run by Mexican drug trafficking organizations - including grow sites in state and national parks.

Trailers are available legally for episodes of the present season.
Ep. 1 Gateway to Heroin
Ep. 2 Sex, Lies & Cigarettes
Ep. 3 Sushi to the Slaughter
Ep. 4 City of God, Guns & Gangs
Ep. 5 Tiger Farms
Ep. 6 This (Illegal) American Life
Ep. 7 Recovery High
posted by Blasdelb (23 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I could swear this was posted before, but could be wrong.
posted by usagizero at 2:57 PM on October 8, 2011

Indian country in the US is insane. It is like another universe, especially when it comes to these issues. I know from experience. Everytime I can't believe what is going on, some of the people I'm working with say "its Indian country, you have to get used to it."

I refuse.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:44 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is what happens when you spend centuries living on top of a failed genocide, the rates of infant mortality, rape, suicide, poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction and illiteracy in the Dakotas is the natural consequences of colonizers history in these lands.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:24 PM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by jb at 6:08 PM on October 8, 2011

It's more complicated than just the sociological and cultural issues within Indian country. It's also two hundred years of failed federal Indian law and policy which contributed to those issues, and left us with a messed up legal framework. One of the things you have to understand about Indian county is the fucked up patchwork of jurisdictional issues that goes on before you can even get to the issues of lack of federal law enforcement resources to be able to conduct proper investigations. First of all, you have to understand the federal definition of Indian country under 18 USC 1151, which basically establishes three different types: trust/restricted land; domestic dependent communities, and reservations. The last is important because if you're dealing with a reservation, IC includes all land within the boundaries, including fee land owned by non-Indians.

So after you've sorted out whether or not you're even in IC, then you've got to understand the applicable statutory limitations for tribal law enforcement. The Indian Civil Rights Act limits the ability of tribes to be able to police and enforce crime within Indian County; basically, they are forced to rely upon the feds to prosecute crimes enumerated under the Major Crimes Act (unless you're talking about a PL 280 state such as CA, NE, WA, etc., which is a Termination Era-statute which transferred fed jurisdiction to states. That's probably a whole separate post in and of itself.) So on big reservations, this is a problem, because having to rely upon the resources of an overworked non-local US Attorney to investigate and prosecute these crimes became untenable. The 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act made changes to ICRA by among other things, increasing the ability of tribes to prosecute rape and other violent crimes against women (as well as giving tribal governments increased sentencing authority - used to be one year, now up to three), but that was just a start. Then you've got to look at whether or not the victim and/or perp is Indian or non-Indian, or whether it's a "victimless" crime.

Rape is a crime which, under the Major Crimes Act, when committed in Indian country is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the feds, so at least there there's a clearly exclusive fed authority to prosecute. The problem is when you run into crimes not under the MCA or other federal statute that the feds can't/won't necessarily prosecute, in which case, if you're not in a PL 280 state, there's going to be some massive confusion about whether the tribe or the state has authority to prosecute. When a crime is being committed, a law enforcement officer responding literally has to figure out the race of the victim and the perp and whether the crime occurred inside or outside of IC. Here in Oklahoma, that's a big problem for us because our Indian country is all restricted and trust property, so we have to rely heavily on cross-deputization agreements. Unfortunately, we've still got county sheriffs who refuse to cooperate, so we've got problems with getting certain county sheriffs who refuse to arrest non-Indians who commit crimes on trust/restricted land or in some cases even respond to calls on casinos on trust land.

That's just a quick messy explanation which doesn't even really scratch the surface of the mess of criminal jurisdiction in IC. We literally use charts to map it out.

Oh, and don't you think it would help to have more federal judges on the bench who understand these issues? Maybe an actual tribal member? Me too. We actually have a fine nominee pending. Unfortunately, politics is getting in the way.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:16 PM on October 8, 2011 [26 favorites]

I'm not saying this to minimize the issue of rape in Native communities, but just as a reminder: depending on your data source, between one in four and one in six women in the total population are raped at some point during their lifetimes.

So though the prevalence is clearly much higher in certain subpopulations, and uniquely complicated in those groups, it's connected to the larger societal problem as well. Just in case people thought that outside Native groups it was much rarer. It's rarer, but not much rarer.
posted by Miko at 6:56 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

PinkMoose: "the rates of infant mortality, rape, suicide, poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction and illiteracy in the Dakotas is the natural consequences of colonizers history in these lands."

Such problems are probably due more to being indoctrinated that one is a victim and keeping oneself isolated and apart in a small group instead of joining the larger society as a whole. You have problem in communities of all sorts that are closed in and of a small group no matter the race, creed, or color. Being told they were victims, being taught that they are somehow traitors if they seek out life outside the small society makes things even worse. Yes, the ruggedness and often poor value land that many Native Americans live on does make things worse and yes their ancestors were screwed over but then then all people everywhere had their land taken from them and took land from others.

and of course such studies are pretty much bs and will get you whatever results you choose. Much as the myth about one in 4 or 6 women being raped (or rather "raped or attempted rape"). The study that came up with this result was done by Ms Magazine, hardly unbiased and relied on self-reporting by a group of college women and included such thing as having sex when you were drunk as being raped. One night stands were likely to be treated as a rape even when the woman didn't feel she was raped. For the sake of the study - and the people paying for the study, such actions were raped.

And of course "attempted" rape gave the people running the study an even broader definition as attempted could mean so little with no proof if actual rape was intended or not.
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2011

http://www.wbcws.org/ is the org that helps women that is mentioned in the documentary--it takes donations by pay pal.

miko, the people who are both abused and abusers talk about how the structures of policing, the history of abuse, and the misreading of tradition by white folks all lead to this increase of sexual assualt, etc.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:20 PM on October 8, 2011

Such problems are probably due more to being indoctrinated that one is a victim and keeping oneself isolated and apart in a small group instead of joining the larger society as a whole.

So, 2manyusernames, basically, you're saying the problem here is that those danged Indians just don't act white enough.

You know who else thought Native Americans should just stop being so Native?
posted by BlueJae at 9:56 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

The FBI is doing most of the work out there in terms of policing. Since Special Agents are rare, its few and far between. The tribal police ain't shit. But if you do get an 1811 doing your rape case you'll be ok.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Man, I had no idea that this was the case.

I was wondering about the problems of alcoholism. Do Indian reservations have the ability to tax alcohol, and if so, what is the after-tax price of alcohol relative to the rest of the country?

The 80% unemployment rate statistic was unbelievable. 80% unemployment, huge alcohol problems, too few police. This sounds impossible.
posted by scunning at 10:36 PM on October 8, 2011

Here are some Department of Justice press releases on the subject of sexual violence in tribal communities.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 12:15 AM on October 9, 2011

From p.138 of the 'Encyclopedia of Rape':
[...] Native people did not adopt interracial rape into their worldview as appropriate behavior, and they continued to label rapists as sexual deviants and responded to mitigate and prevent rape in a variety of ways. [...]

Rape has continued to affect Native American communities in disproportionately high numbers. In 1999, the Department of Justice reported that American Indians were victims of rape at 3.5 times the rate of other racial groups; Native Americans remain more impoverished than any other racial group. Moreover, unlike other racial groups, someone of another race assaulted 90 percent of Native American rape victims.
As for the – I'm sorry – disgusting comment that suggests Native Americans should "integrate into larger society", an entire sickeningly abusive system was built around that very sentiment: boarding schools (in the US) and residential schools (in Canada) for Native Americans. The first was founded by Richard Henry Pratt, who in 1892 stated that "A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."

Julie Davis in "American Indian Boarding School Experiences" notes that "School administrators and teachers cut children’s hair; changed their dress, their diets, and their names; introduced them to unfamiliar conceptions of space and time; and subjected them to militaristic regimentation and discipline. Educators suppressed tribal languages and cultural practices and sought to replace them with English, Christianity, athletic activities, and a ritual calendar intended to further patriotic citizenship. They instructed the students in the industrial and domestic skills appropriate to European American gender roles and taught them manual labor. For many Indian children, this cultural assault led to confusion and alienation, homesickness and resentment."

In other words, that assimilationist way of thinking is part of the problem. It is emphatically not the solution.
posted by fraula at 1:27 AM on October 9, 2011 [10 favorites]

On a lot of Indian Reservations, you can't buy alcohol *at all*. (I don't know if this is true for all of them--just the ones I'm familiar with.) Of course, this just leads to a preponderance of people opening liquor stores literally steps from the boundary.
posted by RedEmma at 9:02 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

that assimilationist way of thinking is part of the problem.

As a side note, I always thought it telling that for decades, on many State highway maps, rez boundaries weren't/aren't even shown. As if mainstream governments hope that popular ignorance helps keep problems invisible.

Which hasn't kept those governments from continual attempts to use rez's as dumping grounds for their toxics - e.g. nuke cask storage - unless their desolation accidentally enclosed valuable resources, in which case they certainly weren't invisible on maps the public didn't see.

Talk about immigrant problems....
posted by Twang at 2:17 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

To clarify I did not say native americans should or should not join the larger society as nearly everyone else does. I won't argue whether the views of many in the 19th century should have any bearing in the 21st century. I won't argue whether it is or isn't a "disgusting" thing to introduce someone to unfamiliar conceptions of space and time or even to give up part of their identity to fit in with the rest.

All I was saying is that many of their problems are caused by their isolation, refusal to assimilate and even teaching the children that they are being disloyal and insulting if they choose to live in the larger world. They are far from unique in such problems. Whether it is the Amish, small groups of people living in isolation in the mountains, bayous, etc, small groups living separate due to their belief, or whatever, there are a group of problems that are caused by such living arrangements.

Of course there are also benefits to such a situation but that doesn't mean there are not severe consequences as well.
posted by 2manyusernames at 2:38 PM on October 9, 2011

BlueJae: "So, 2manyusernames, basically, you're saying the problem here is that those danged Indians just don't act white enough."

I wouldn't be too rough on 2manyusernames. I think it's a really interesting comment if for no other reason than to remind us of the underlying thinking that gives rise to assimilation policy. The dangerous thing is that for some people, the ideas of assimilation don't always come from a place of overt racism or xenophobia, so much as simple lack of understanding and appreciation for heterogenous culture. There's a kind of a lovely angle to this line of thought - let's be alike, let's live together, let's be the same so we don't have differences. Let's be a melting pot.

In other words, a proponent of assimilationist ideas may not be intend their actions to be an act of hostility, despite the fact that the result is, in fact, hostile; instead, it's a failure of knowledge or understanding about the value of honoring and preserving unique cultures and cultural differences. It's a tough line for everyone to walk: How do we come together and unite without losing our uniqueness? How do we honor and preserve unique cultures without risking imposing one over another? At any rate, I'd like to believe that the kind of "good intentions" assimilation thinking can at least be changed once an individual learns how assimilation policy hurts instead of helps, whereas racists and xenophobes who drive assimilationist policy are unlikely to be swayed and change their minds.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:46 PM on October 9, 2011

2manyusernames: "All I was saying is that many of their problems are caused by their isolation, refusal to assimilate and even teaching the children that they are being disloyal and insulting if they choose to live in the larger world. "

Before you go any further there, you need to realize that by using the language "refusal to assimilate" is inherently advocating assimilation because it assumes a choice of isolationism. You may be making an assuming that tribes have chosen to isolate themselves. This is a false assumption, and one that is probably driven from a myth propagated by the same sources that are driving the shift toward a new Termination Era in American Indian policy.
posted by Dr. Zira at 2:52 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Let me give you an example of the cruelty of Assimilation policy.

Here in the United States, we decided that the best way to deal with the "Indian problem" would be to make them just like us: At that time period, we decided that part of the problem for tribal members was that they were forced to live in communal based societies. We decided to turn them into farmers. So we allotted their reservations into 160 acre tracts and made the homestead and farm those tracts. There were problems, of course, due in no small part to the fact that the United States, which had long ago as a matter of law rationalized that the way to justify our taking away land from the Indians was to make them "domestic dependent nations" and made them wards of the United States, failed to provide them with the tools and resources they needed to become farmers.

Oh, and then, on top of that, even the few Indians who were successful at it later lost their farms when non-Indians in power decided that their success had become threatening. You see examples of this not only during the actual Assimilation/Allotment Era between the 1880s and the 1940s; but as recently as the 1990s. For example, the USDA discrimination against tribal members which is the subject of the Keepseagle v. Vilsack settlement. Just a couple of weeks ago, I interviewed several potential claimants who told me harrowing stories about how their local USDA offices exercised shocking levels of discrimination in the servicing of loans that resulted in losing family farms.

I can give you many, horrible examples of how Assimilation policy has failed in the US, not to mention Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The point here is that you need to understand how charged the word "assimilation" is when you're discussing federal Indian policy so you can appreciate why calling out tribes and/or tribal members for "refusal to assimilate" is probably not going to go over very well.
posted by Dr. Zira at 3:15 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

[B]asically, they are forced to rely upon the feds to prosecute crimes enumerated under the Major Crimes Act (unless you're talking about a PL 280 state such as CA, NE, WA, etc., which is a Termination Era-statute which transferred fed jurisdiction to states. That's probably a whole separate post in and of itself.)

I would be very interested in a post on that topic, Dr. Zira. I worked on a rez in California (at a casino, to be precise) and the county sheriffs were called in three-five times a week. I never realized that this was a unique thing, county sheriffs dealing with rapes and murders and drug busts on the rez itself, until I got to the Dakotas. I'd be interested to hear the history of how that got started, the implications, etc. California is, of course, kind of a weird state anyway as regards to tribal sovereignty, but it'd be interesting nonetheless.
posted by librarylis at 6:20 PM on October 9, 2011

librarylis: "I would be very interested in a post on that topic, Dr. Zira."

I'll see if I can put something together, but in the meantime, here's a good PL 280 overview. It's a Termination Era statute, and that's a whole interesting discussion in and of itself.

hal_c_on: "If you replace Japan with the United States, you have the four countries that did not support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People."

I specifically mentioned Japan because I did some research on the Ainu in law school and Japan's history of dealing with the Ainu (and other indigenous people in Japan) is particularly fascinating in light of that country's unique history. At the time of my research, Japan had still refused to even recognize that the Ainu were indigenous people.
When you do a comparative study of indigenous people, you see that although the US was the pioneer of fucked up indigenous policy, amazingly, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand managed to not only fail to avoid our mistakes, but find whole new ways to fuck it up.

Happy Columbus Day, everyone!
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:33 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

All I know about attempted assimilation is regarding the education system. I live in a city (Duluth, MN) where the reservation is close enough that some children can bus to the rez to go to the Indian school (even if they don't live on the rez) or stay in the regular school district.

In the high schools, I can count on having at least one Anishinaabe or Lakota kid in any given classroom. (I substitute.) The other day, I was asked to show a video on westward expansion/the transatlantic railroads. The video wasn't old; it was from the Modern Marvels series. It had a "chapter" (about six minutes long) about the Native Americans, but it seemed fairly tacked on. The rest of the film kept using the word "empty" to refer to the places where Native Americans were living and likewise "removed" from. And romanticizing the "threat of Indian attack" as something those "brave" workers had to endure. I felt compelled to interject about it, because what I often see in classes like this is the Native kids' heads sink lower and lower... often ending up on their arms, head down because they get sick of having to sit in classes where the genocide of their ancestors is ignored or justified. In fact, I see this pretty much every time I teach in the high schools. Native kids feel silenced, unable to speak up, and so even while still in the classroom, they're just biding time til they can get away with dropping out. Even when I try to interject with commentary about how the film is missing X or Y or not addressing Z, it often feels like the whole thing is too little too late. I'm a white lady trying to inject a little truth into a situation where they're already lost.

And so the choice these kids (and their parents) face is whether to "assimilate" into a classroom environment that ignores them, and glosses over their situations. Or to get bussed to the rez to be in a school where the drum is the center of the community, where their very real issues are discussed. Where they don't feel compelled to sleep in class, or at least if they do, they are noticed. They are NOTICED. I've spent time at the rez school. Those kids at least look alive. They feel connected to each other.

I don't blame people one bit for choosing the rez over the larger community. Not matter how fucked up things are there, at least there you aren't invisible.
posted by RedEmma at 9:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't forget Sweden and Finland's interesting history with their indigenous people, the Sami. India has also not treated their tribals very well. The aboriginal peoples in the former Soviet Union also didn't have a fun time.

When I was a kid and reading about all of this, I decided that technologically advanced peoples were inherently immoral. Reading a lot of SF got me over that. Now I just think that most people are happy to quietly ignore people who look a little different, speak a different language, whatever, being treated like sub-humans.
posted by QIbHom at 1:15 PM on October 11, 2011

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