Native American groups launch video campaign to combat violence against women

By Ginny Underwood

(Helena, Mont.) --  The Indian Law Resource Center and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) have launched the first videos in a new campaign to raise awareness of and help end violence against Native women and girls.

The campaign is two-fold, featuring a series of “Survivor Stories” with Native women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence as well as a series of videos on the theme of “Native Love” with Native youth expressing what Native love means to them and the changes they want to see in their communities.

“With one in three Native women raped in their lifetimes, creating awareness to end violence against Indian and Alaska Native women and girls is the first and foremost priority for this campaign,” said Jana Walker, Senior Attorney and Director of the Center’s Safe Women, Strong Nations project.  “The epidemic of violence against Native women and girls cannot be tolerated.”  

The first survivor story released in the series features Sheila Harjo, the First Lady of the Seminole Nation and Councilwoman.  In the video, Harjo describes the eight years of abuse she endured by her former husband.

“I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor,” declares Harjo in the video. “I now have the opportunity to share my story and let people know it can happen to anybody. It’s not drunks. It’s not the poor people. It’s not the uneducated. It’s anybody.”

Harjo has been a driving force in helping The Seminole Nation establish a domestic violence program and shelter for abused women and their children.

The “Native Love” video series raises awareness about violence against Native women and girls and is aimed at empowering tribal members, particularly young people, to speak out.  Justin Secakuku, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, shares a Hopi tradition involving white corn, and its symbolism of the value of women to give and produce life.

“Women should be appreciated, honored, and loved,” says Secakuku in the video. “In the concept of Native love, we have to respect what women have to contribute to society as a whole.”

The Indian Law Resource Center and the NIWRC will release four survivor stories and four “Native Love” stories through the end of the year.  The videos and other online resources including posters, Facebook banners, a domestic violence toolkit, FAQs, and a guide on how to share the campaign, will be available at www.indianlaw.org and www.niwrc.org.

“We hope to stimulate and support a national dialogue about what Native love is — and what it is not — in order to create change that will help restore safety to our Native women and girls,”  said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director of the NIWRC.  “We encourage people to watch the videos, share them through Facebook and other social media channels, and help us create change.”

The videos were co-produced by the Center and Native filmmaker Ryan Red Corn, co-founder of Buffalo Nickel Creative.  Red Corn also produced “To The Indigenous Woman” which was released by the Center in October 2011. 

 

(To read original article, visit this Native American Times link)

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