July 8, 2011

Callaloo Parade and the Sexualization of Native American Women

Sexual Violence is a Tool of Conquest
"Sexual assault rates and violence against Native American women did not just drop from the sky. They are a process of history." - Jacqueline Agtuca

So I just got word of another Native-themed Parade from my friend Melissa. She wrote:

I got a call from a woman today who was livid over a Caribana parade that's going to be happening in Toronto in the next month or so where the theme is "Native America." Here's the website http://callaloo.net/. I passed this around work and we're going to try to do something here to bring attention as to why this is wrong and provide some education as to how this image they are putting forth perpetuates violence against Aboriginal women.

So I checked it out, and this is what I found - The costumes for this year include “Native Apache”:

and “Tribal Princesses”:

and "Sacrificial Mayan Virgins":

Why is this bad? Adrienne Keene at Native Appropriations breaks it down:

But the pervasive "sexy squaw" is the most dangerous, especially when you know the basic facts about sexual violence against Native women:

- 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime
- 70% of sexual violence against Native women is committed by non-Natives

This Amnesty International study details, at great length, the gruesome truth about sexual violence in Indian Country. Also, recently, Vanguard (a show on current TV) did a special called "Rape on the Reservation". The show is about 45 minutes long, but so powerful, and so heartbreaking. Please watch it if you have time, even the intro is enough to shock you back to reality:

Now can you see why my heart breaks and I feel sick every time I see an image of a naked or scantily clad woman in a headdress? This is not just about cultural appropriation. This is about a serious, scary, and continuing legacy of violence against women in Indian Country. By perpetuating the stereotypes of Native women as sexual objects, they are aiding and continuing the cycle of violence.

What can you do? Contact Callaloo and let them know that the images that they are putting out there about Native women are wrong.

"The fact that Native American and Alaska Native women have been dehumanized throughout US history informs present-day attitudes. It helps fuel the high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against them and the high levels of impunity enjoyed by their attackers." - Amnesty International Report

And, if you're still not convinced that this is a serious issue, here is another excerpt from that Amnesty International Report:

"In July 2006 an Alaska Native woman in Fairbanks reported to the police that she had been raped by a non-Native man. She gave a description of the alleged perpetrator and city police officers told her that they were going to look for him. She waited for the police to return and when they failed to do so, she went to the emergency room for treatment. A support worker told Amnesty International that the woman had bruises all over her body and was so traumatized that she was talking very quickly. She said that, although the woman was not drunk, the Sexual Assault Response Team nevertheless "treated her like a drunk Native woman first and a rape victim second". The support worker described how the woman was given some painkillers and some money to go to a non-Native shelter, which turned her away because they also assumed that she was drunk: "This is why Native women don’t report. It’s creating a breeding ground for sexual predators.""