Upcoming Symposium: Examining the Roots of Human Trafficking and Exploitation

January 29-30, 2015  UCLA School of Law

There will be a panel devoted specifically to Indigenous communities.

See flyer for registration details:

UCLA Symposium Flyer

House and Senate Repeal Alaska Exception (Section 910) of VAWA

Now it’s off to the President for his signature or veto:

Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young today teamed up to make sure that Section 910 of the Violence Against Women Act was repealed. Through numerous conversations with their House and Senate colleagues, the two Alaska lawmakers succeeded in having the provision removed from the law.

In the final days of the 113th Congress, Representative Young worked directly with House leadership – including several interactions with Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and other senior House members – to secure expedited passage of the bill in one of the House’s final actions prior to adjourning.  Meanwhile, Senator Murkowski worked with her Senate colleagues to build support for the action, including a call across Capitol Hill before the vote to Majority Leader McCarthy, encouraging his consent for the move that officially took place after tonight’s final budget vote.

“Alaska tribes asked me to repeal Section 910 of VAWA, and I thank the Alaska Delegation for working with me on their behalf,” said Murkowski.  “But it doesn’t stop today; in the new Congress beginning next month, it will be imperative to ensure that our tribal courts in Alaska receive the funding they need to deliver the justice and protection the need and deserve – not only for training and capacity development, but also for operations.”

“Today I am pleased that the House of Representatives passed S. 1474, a bill which repeals Section 910 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).  In the many conversations I have had with Alaska Native leaders and families since the reauthorization of VAWA last year, I heard a consistent, clear, and powerful message: that Section 910 was an error and must be repealed,” said Congressman Young.  “I was proud to work with Lisa in these final moments to ensure that one of the final acts of the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress was to empower Alaska’s tribes and uplift Alaska Native women.”

Link to press release here.

Manidoowaadiziwag Ikwewag – Women Are Sacred, Video Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence and Practices for Dealing with DV in Native Communities and Victims with Disabilities

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.

This documentary film was developed to be an educational and training tool based on the work produced by the Minnesota Accessing Paths to Safety Project.

The film chronicles the the first-hand stories of American Indian woman survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse with disabilities from the White Earth Nation. Learn about their history and tradition, the impact of historical trauma and intergenerational grief, and the resources available for survivors on and around the reservation.

Link to the video here.

OVW Training on Federal Criminal Databases & DOJ Consultation on Violence Against Women

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is hosting a training session on federal criminal databases and information sharing, October 14, 2014 from 1:30-4:30 p.m in Rapid City, SD. The training is free and will provide information about the various federal criminal databases, requirements for accessing and submitting information to the databases, considerations for tribal leaders working to implement TLOA and VAWA 2013, current DOJ efforts to increase Tribal access to federal criminal databases, and updates on the implementation of Section 905(b) of VAWA 2005.

October 15, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in Rapid City, SD is the U.S. Department of Justice’s 9th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation. From the site:

The purpose of the consultation is to solicit recommendations on enhancing safety for American Indian and Alaska Native women, strengthening the Federal response to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and administering grants funds.

More information and registration is available here.

In Memory of Tillie Black Bear

Tillie Black Bear, a tireless advocate for Native Women, passed away Saturday evening, July 19. Tillie’s work inspired so many and our hearts are with all those she left behind.

NIWRC has made a documentary about the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society available on YouTube. Tillie was one of the founding mothers of this society.

Link to the video available here.

Miigwech for all that you did Tillie Black Bear

RCMP Report on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women Shows Disproportionate Rates of Homicide and Missing Women Cases

Today, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview.”

Link to full report here.

Speakers at the press conference highlighted numerous disturbing statistics and then officially resolved to promote more national prevention initiatives.

The report only looked at police reported cases from 1980-2012. This means that any unreported cases, closed cases, or cases from prior to 1980 will not be represented in the statistics.

Some key finding:

  • 1181 homicides and unsolved cases involved Aboriginal women. Of that number 160 were missing and 1017 were homicide victims.
  • 225 of those cases remain unsolved, 105 unsolved missing women cases and 120 homicides.
  • As of November 2013, 6,420 people are missing in Canada, 22% of these are missing women and of that group 11.3% are Aboriginal women.
  • For women involved in the sex trade, the solve rate is only 60% for Aboriginal women and 65% for non Aboriginal women.

Disproportionate Impact:

Aboriginal women are only 4.3% of the population, yet comprise 11.3% of total missing women cases and 16% of total female homicide cases. *Later it was mentioned that while female homicide rates are decreasing in general in Canada, there is not a similar decrease in Aboriginal female homicides. Therefore, the percentages are actually higher – more like 23% of female homicides.


89% are males, average age of 35, and the majority knew their victims. Some common characteristics: underemployed, high use of intoxicants, criminal records, and a history of violence against the victim.

The full report includes much more information, but these few statistics demonstrate what many in Indigenous communities have been saying – Indigenous or Aboriginal women comprise a disproportionate amount of missing and murdered women in Canada. These limited statistics are proof of the terrible reality that Indigenous community members have been discussing for years. Some will say that these numbers still do not truly show the full situation. It remains to be seen whether this report will signal the beginning of better cooperation among national and provincial police with Indigenous communities to protect Indigenous women and girls or if it will remain one more depressing report to be filed away and forgotten.

*As a side note, when we will we see a similar study in the United States? Where are U.S. national statistics on missing and murdered Native women?

Previous coverage of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada here.


The Impact of Resource Extraction on Inuit Women and Families in Nunavut

A Report for the Canadian Women’s Foundation was released in January 2014, outlining the impact that resource extraction is having on the Inuit women and families living in Qamani’tuaq, Nunavut. The report contains a literature review and qualitative data as well as a series of recommendations based on the collected data. While much anecdotal information is available about the impact that the extractive industry is having on indigenous peoples around the world, it is nice to see some data that can be used to support anecdotal accounts.

The full report is available here.

The research looked at the following areas:

  • The Work Environment (including issues like sexual harassment and employment opportunities)
  • Material Well-Being/Income
  • Family Relations
  • Addictions
  • Socio-Cultural Concerns

A few excerpts from the report:

Mining is one of the oldest occupations on the planet. It is an industry whose activities, especially in the case of open-pit mining, are very visual. The impacts of these modifications to the landscape also introduce serious environmental risks. It is therefore not surprising that since the early 1970s, a wealth of literature on the topic of mining, extraction industries and sustainable development has been produced. There are far fewer sources that specifically cover the social and gendered impacts of mining—even less that focus explicitly on Indigenous people. Very little material is Inuit-specific. . . .

There is very little evidence in the literature on Indigenous peoples and mining that identifies resource extraction that has been done with thoughtful consultation, support and that has contributed fairly to nearby communities, with little impact on the land, water and people.1

Despite some benefits and exemplary cases,2,3 the majority of sources cite people’s dissatisfaction with the mining process; from discussion, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, to the closure of mines.4,10 The imposition of economic and political structures, Western values and beliefs, displacement, dispossession of lives and culture at considerable social costs are all cornerstones of what many authors describe, in reference to mining and Indigenous peoples, as capitalist and colonial relations.5, 6 Many authors make reference to complicity between the State and extractive industries.1, 10 Although people are identified as having greater access to some degree of income security, the benefits of mining projects are not distributed equally between industry and the people directly affected. 7, 8, 9 Mining projects in the Canadian North have become part of a social and political attitude that can be described as ‘new frontierism’,10 where a great expanse of land and resources are waiting to be discovered and profited from, the benefits of which will ‘trickle down’ to those framed as ‘tragically destitute’. The “anxious”3 arguments for territorial and extractive expansion are reminiscent of a very familiar paternal discourse that associates the Canadian Arctic with Canadian identity and opportunity, in a rhetoric that often leaves out Inuit altogether. ‘The north serves, primarily, “our”—easily understood to mean southern Canadian—interests and aspirations.11 . . . .

The Canadian economy has been, historically, and continues to be focused on resource extraction and development. These activities cannot be viewed without attention to environmental, historical, political, economic and social interconnections. Resource extraction has, and continues to generate considerable controversy and debate among Canadians. Over the past year Canadians have seen 2.5 million rivers and lakes protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act drop to only 160 with the passing of Omnibus Bill C-45. Proposals for the twinning and expansion of pipelines for the transportation of crude oil across the continent have been moving forward in the presence of oil spills in Alberta and British Columbia and the Lac-Mégantic explosion in Québec. The Alberta tar sands are seen by many to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and thus global warming; a concern with regard to the environmental and social consequences for Arctic Canada. These developments generate controversy, with some politicians, business people, economists and members of the public focusing on the economic advantages – the contribution of oil sands development to employment and the Canadian economy. The Canadian economy is heavily reliant on the export of resources. In 2010, the energy, forest, agriculture and mining sectors accounted for 60.8% of the country’s exports. Total exports accounted for about 30% the country’s GDP.13 Internationally, countries struggling with poverty increasingly see the export of their mineral wealth as a means for lifting themselves out of poverty and as a way of participating in a globalized capitalist economy.14, 15 Since World War II mining has played an increasingly important critical role in fueling capitalist growth and expansion.14, 16, 17

A growing concern in all economies—increasingly in western European as well as ‘south’ countries—is growing economic inequality and the long-term implications for social well-being and the functioning of civil society. Cheap labour facilitates the accumulation of capital for development.18 The role of resource development in the creation of unequal outcomes and the dispossession of some to the advantage of others is an international concern related to mining and resource development.12 Colonial expansion—internationally—has strong ties to the history of the development of gold and other minerals.19 The history of gold mining—including its recent history—is full of intrigue and controversy. Naylor provides a trenchant portrayal of the recent history of international gold mining, including attention to the technology and environmental implications of the chemicals and processes used to extract gold from ore, and the impact of gold mining on Indigenous peoples.20 Internationally, gold mining continues to generate considerable opposition from Indigenous peoples whose traditional lands – from Papua New Guinea, to Latin America, Australia and Canada—continue to be subject to considerable pressure from the ebb and flow of international desires for ‘glamorous gold’.16

At the same time, there are individuals in the mining industry and companies that are clearly attempting to ‘do things differently’. This is not always possible as mining companies, heavily dependent upon investment and sensitive—as are all corporations—to their share price on Canadian and international stock exchanges, must still live with attention to the ‘bottom line’. Depending on the values, orientation and pressures acting on those responsible for decision- making, the promises made in an impact benefit agreement may get compromised, environmental protection, in an attempt to save money and remain competitive, may be compromised. The pressures operating on management decisions in the mining industry are many. The literature dealing with the social and environmental impacts of mining is overwhelmingly concerned with these realities.

The history of the relationship of Canadians to the Arctic pre-dates confederation and the transfer of lands and resources under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Arctic islands under the control of Great Britain to the newly formed Canadian state. The colonization of northern lands, peoples and resources proceeds in a fashion that paralleling settlement of eastern and then later, western Canada. Displacement is literally and symbolically critical to capitalist expansion and colonial initiatives.10, 12, 21, 22 Incorporating colonial subjects into developing economies has been a concern related to colonial expansion since the early 1800s. In the Canadian Arctic, Inuit were first employed in the whaling industry. With its collapse just before the First World War, they were integrated into the fox fur trade of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The collapse of the fur trade following the Second World War introduced a period of welfarism with Inuit increasingly dependent for sustenance and survival on the newly-developed liberal welfare state. It was a period where Inuit struggled with an epidemic of tuberculosis, the residential and day schooling of Inuit children, a move from hunting camps to consolidated settlements and, in general, phenomenal social, cultural and economic change. 23

These events had devastating and long-lasting impacts on people’s livelihoods, cultural vitality, self-esteem and both physical and mental health.18, 23 Increasingly, efforts were made to integrate Inuit with the Canadian industrial economy, commencing with employment at the North Rankin Nickel Mine operating on the west coast of Hudson Bay from 1957 to 1962 and the construction of the Distant Early Warning (D.E.W.) Line (1956-57). These efforts are also evident in the development of Nanisivik, a lead-zinc mine developed near the Inuit community of Arctic Bay on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Planning commenced in the early 1970s and the mine operated from 1978 until 2002. It employed around 200 people from neighbouring communities and, along with the Polaris Mine operating on Little Cornwallis Island in the high Arctic, introduced many Inuit to wage employment for the first time.24 Studies have revealed that the long-term or sustainable benefits of these projects for Inuit were few—if any.24 They neither benefited from the infrastructure associated with the mines, nor were investments made in alternative income-generating activities that would sustain Inuit families after the mines were shut down.

ILPC Victoria Sweet on The Human Trafficking of Indigenous Women in the Circumpolar Region of the United States and Canada

Our own Victoria Sweet has posted her newest paper, “Rising Waters, Rising Threats: The Human Trafficking of Indigenous Women in the Circumpolar Region of the United States and Canada.”

Here is the abstract:

Among indigenous people around the world, human trafficking is taking a tremendous toll. While trafficking is not an exclusively indigenous issue, disproportionately large numbers of indigenous people, particularly women, are modern trafficking victims. In Canada, several groups concerned about human trafficking have conducted studies primarily focused on the sex trade because many sex workers are actually trafficking victims under both domestic and international legal standards. These studies found that First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%. Very few comparable studies have been conducted in the United States, but studies in both Minnesota and Alaska found similar statistics among U.S. indigenous women.

With the current interest in resource extraction, and other opportunities in the warming Arctic, people from outside regions are traveling north in growing numbers. This rise in outside interactions increases the risk that the indigenous women may be trafficked. Recent crime reports from areas that have had an influx of outsiders such as Williston, North Dakota, U.S. and Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, both part of the new oil boom, demonstrate the potential risks that any group faces when people with no community accountability enter an area. The combination of development in rural locations, the demographic shift of outsiders moving to the north, and the lack of close monitoring in this circumpolar area is a potential recipe for disaster for indigenous women in the region. This paper suggests that in order to protect indigenous women, countries and indigenous nations must acknowledge this risk and plan for ways to mitigate risk factors.

New Handbook – Combatting Violence Against Native Women in the United States

In the face of unresponsive domestic legal and political systems, the Indian Law Resource Center partnered with Native women’s organizations and Indian nations on a national strategy – a strategy reframing the issue of violence against Native women as a human rights issue, not just a domestic or law enforcement issue. By combining domestic and international advocacy and turning to the international human rights arena to find justice, this strategy has led to encouraging results. A new handbook by the Indian Law Resource Center documents advocacy within the Inter-American Human Rights System to combat violence against Native women in the United States.

Link here.