Justice for Olivia Lone Bear

The body of indigenous woman Olivia Lone Bear was found at the bottom of a lake following her disappearance 9 months ago.

Her body was discovered inside a pickup truck which had sunk to the bottom of a nearby lake.

She leaves behind five children.

Indigenous women, particularly those living on reservations, experience exceptionally high rates of violence — as much as 50% higher than the next most victimized demographic.

Additionally, 39% of indigenous women surveyed said that they were victims of intimate partner violence — a percentage far higher than any other surveyed demographic.

And it isn’t just general violence; indigenous women suffer much higher rates of sexual violence, too.

Native American and Native Alaskan women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be a victim of rape or sexual assault than women in the United States on average, and 17% of these women have had stalkers in their lifetimes.

Olivia Lone Bear’s death is not an isolated incident.

As elevated as the risks are for Native and indigenous women on a daily basis, the danger becomes even greater when projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) go into effect.

These construction projects bring with them a phenomena referred to as “man camps” — large, pop-up living areas that predominantly house the men who have come to the area to do the heavy labor.

The presence of these “camps” has raised the violence against Native women in North Dakota by 7.2% since 2011.

The proverbial nail in these women’s coffins is the fact that the 1978 Supreme Court case Oliphant v. Suquamish actually stripped indigenous tribes of their legal ability and right to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes while on reservation land.

“And I can’t speak to all of the decisions that were made on the ground here, but I can say that in 1978 the United States Supreme Court stripped our nations of our inherent criminal jurisdiction over anyone who comes onto our lands and commit crimes. So that means that, today, when a woman goes missing, if a Native woman goes missing, her tribal government cannot exercise any kind of police jurisdiction over that crime, unless the government knows that the perpetrator was Native. And that’s because the Supreme Court says we don’t have jurisdiction over non-Natives who come onto our lands and kill our women or our children or really any tribal citizen.”  — Mary Kathryn Nagle, partner at Pipestem Law, a firm dedicated to the restoration of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction

Lone Bear’s death is yet another example of the ways in which toxic masculinity and racism are deeply intertwined and how deadly that combination can be; the toxic view that women are lesser beings with fewer rights is reinforced and galvanized by the racist perception that a Native woman’s life is worth less than, say, a white woman’s.

It is unacceptable and must be combated at every opportunity.

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Olivia Lone Bear

 

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