Message from Amnesty International: End sexual violence against Native American women

This afternoon I got the following alert from Amnesty International. Please take a moment to look over the facts below and call your Senator. If you can’t do it today, then make a call tomorrow or Friday. Senators need to hear from as many people as possible on this important issue.


Native American and Alaska Native women face a 1 in 3 chance of being raped in their lifetime.
Call your Senators today to support the Tribal Law and Order Act.The numbers are shocking.

In our report, Maze of Injustice, we uncovered the staggering statistic that Native American and Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

Thankfully, our insiders on Capitol Hill say the Senate is considering re-introducing the Tribal Law and Order Act, a bill that would help fix this broken system of justice.

That’s why we’ve made this week the national call-in week for women’s rights. Call your Senators today and ask them to support the Tribal Law and Order Act.

Our call-in page will give you phone numbers, detailed talking points and a sample script. If passed, the Tribal Law and Order Act would do two critical things:

  • Clarify jurisdiction between federal, state, tribal and local governments, and
  • Increase coordination between their law enforcement agencies for responding to violent crime against American Indians.

Non-Native men who rape Native American and Alaska Native women can often do so with impunity, because of a lack of tribal authority to prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes of sexual violence on tribal lands. Most perpetrators are never punished because of a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that is so confusing that officials are often not clear on who is responsible for responding. This maze of injustice is exactly what the Tribal Law and Order Act would help fix.

Pick up the phone now and call your Senators to support and cosponsor legislation for Native American and Alaska Native women after it is introduced in the Senate.

We promise it will take you less than two minutes. Our call-in page has everything you need, including phone numbers, talking points and even a sample script.Without your phone call the Tribal Law and Order Act may never see the light of day. Thank you for joining the hundreds of others who will call this week to support women’s rights.


Meredith Larson
Director, Stop Violence Against Women Campaign
Amnesty International, USA

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While You Weren’t Looking…

Back on April Fools Day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was waiving nearly three dozen laws and regulations in order to extend the wall it’s been building along our border with Mexico. The federal, state and local laws that were bypassed include legislation that protect the environment and our health, sacred Native American lands, and the rights of property owners. As a result, a remarkably broad coalition has formed of people who oppose this enormous waste of money and trampling of legal process, from the expected environmentalists to cattle ranchers to mayors of many border towns in the U.S. Despite that, the issue has gotten little attention in the rest of the country. To read more about the Border Wall and the environmental havoc it is wreaking, check out this blog post from

I am thinking about the fact that the DHS announcement was made on April Fools Day because another announcement with wide-ranging environmental impacts was recently made on Election Day. While the nation’s attention was almost unanimously focused elsewhere, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that on Dec 19th, more than 50,000 acres of land within close proximity to three National Parks in Utah will be auctioned off for oil and gas drilling rights. The three national parks affected are Arches (home of the iconic and aptly named “Delicate Arch”), Canyonlands, and Dinosaur.

The top National Park Service official in Utah, Cordell Roy, says that his department wasn’t even notified before this announcement was made. Needless to say, the National Park Service objects to what some are calling a Bush administration “fire sale” for the oil and gas industries. While the BLM claims that this is simply business as usual and is surprised by the protest, conservation groups say that never before has the BLM “bunched drilling parcels on the fence lines of national parks.” And keep in mind that while the high price of gasoline may tempt us to consider putting part of our national heritage at risk, the Energy Information Administration says that Utah has only 2.5 percent of the country’s known natural gas reserves and less than 1 percent of its known oil reserves. Drilling around our national parks will not decrease oil prices.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this announcement was made on the afternoon of Election Day. But with the bustle of the winter holiday season getting into full swing, we might want to keep our eyes and ears open for additional holiday surprises.

Planning for Justice in 2009: Planners and Calendars

With autumn’s arrival, many people start thinking about their schedules for the coming year. We have a few suggestions for justice-oriented planners and calendars for 2009, and for some important dates to put in them, too. This post will tackle planners and calendars, while tomorrow’s will include important social justice dates and campaigns to be aware of in the coming year.

Many people rely on their calendars to tell them which days are important, historic, and worth celebrating. Calendars frame how we view time, seasons, growth, and change. For this reason, I prefer calendars which mark the anniversaries of important strikes, protests, court decisions, and changes in the Earth and lunar cycles. My co-workers and I have compiled a list of some of our favorite calendars, and some we’ve never seen but sound cool, below.

Planners and Calendars

2009 Peace Calendar – According to the Syracuse Cultural Workers, based in Syracuse, New York, the 38th edition of their annual peace wall calendar is “greener than ever.” Printed on paper made from 100% postconsumer waste (PCW) which is processed free of chlorine and dioxin, the calendar is sold without wasteful extra packaging like plastic shrinkwrap and cardboard stiffeners. Sweatshop free, made in the USA, and Union-printed, the Peace Calendar is packed with social justice/peoples’ anniversaries, holidays of many faiths, and lunar cycles. Inside, inspirational art touches on topics including resistance to US militarism at home and abroad, urban sustainability, indigenous women, response to gay hate crime, and the celebration of the 77 year history of the Highlander Center in New Market,TN. Click here for more information.

Slingshot 2009 Organizer

The Slingshot Organizer is produced by an all-volunteer collective–“no bosses, no workers, no pay”–in Berkeley, California. The organizer has a strongly anti-capitalist tone. It opens with an essay entitled, “False Hope, Real Transformation,” which slams the notion that a new leader produced by a corrupt capitalist system can solve the nation’s problems. The essay also sounds the call to “seek forms of organization that re-localize decision making,” and make “our day-to-day existence more meaningful, engaged, and connected with others.” The following 160 pages of the Slingshot organizer mark the forgotten history of people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, women, working class people, and members of queer communities. Also included are a list of radical bookstores and infoshops, information on sexuality, transgenderedness, interacting with police, and a calendar for recording menstrual cycles. Click here for more information.

The War Resisters League 2009 Peace Calendar

From the War Resister’s League website:

“A desk calendar and state-by-state account of the places where radical history happened, from the civil rights and anti-racist struggles of Alabama and Mississippi to centuries of war tax resistance in Massachusetts, indigenous opposition to oil-drilling in Alaska, and union organizing in Kentucky and California.”

Includes a directory of U.S. peace and justice organizations and publications, and international contacts. Click here for more information.

Mothers Acting Up in 2009

Also produced by the Syracuse Cultural Workers, Mothers Acting Up is “[d]edicated to moments that change our lives– that take a person and give back an activist.” describes the calendar as “a weekly engagement calendar for mothers that also offers tools, information, weekly actions, and most importantly, portraits of people who inspire our own activism–from the mom next door to movie stars and elected officials.”

Click here for more information.

Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints

Features radicals & rebels for every day of the year. Last year’s “saints” included Audre Lorde, Frederick Douglass, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Frida Kahlo, James Joyce, U.G. Krishnamurti, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, William Blake, Cesar Chavez, Bob Marley, and more, with short bios on each one. Check the Autonomedia online bookstore for the 2009 calendar release date, which may not be until December.

Now that you’ve got your radical calendar, now what? Check back tomorrow for a schedule of UUA Advocacy & Witness social justice campaigns for 2009.

New Native American Justice Pages on

We have posted new webpages on Native American Justice to!

Click on the above link for the main page, and look in the left-hand sidebar for sub-links to background information, UUA policy, and ways to take action.

The background information section includes pages on Violence Against Native American Women, Sacred Sites & Religious Liberty, the Cobell Indian Trust Fund Case, and lots more.

Please note that we will be adding to these pages over the coming months, including information about relevant federal legislation, tribal sovereignty & federal recognition, and immigration issues for Native Americans.

Below is an excerpt from the pages with three ways to get involved–check the Take Action page for more!

  1. Potential Unitarian Universalist (UU) Initiatives for Action About American Indians at the Congregational Level—Excellent resource by James W. Loewen (author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Sundown Towns) which provides background information and suggests ways for UU congregations to carry out social justice work regarding American Indian social justice issues.
  2. Cradle Club through the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office—The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office is working with the Southwest Indian Relief Council’s Cradle Club to provide supplies for baskets to be given to Native American mothers of newborn babies in need. Includes links to a step-by-step guide and proposal for UU congregations.
  3. Subscribe to the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Native American Legislative Update—The Friends Committee on National Legislation runs an excellent listserv which keeps activists informed about current issues and lets them know about online actioncampaigns in which they can take part.

Photos show the arrival of the Longest Walk II in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2008.

The Intern Chronicles

Julia Hodgson is a senior at American University where she is studying Psychology, Anthropology and Religion. She grew up in the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in New Jersey.

As many rising seniors in college find themselves doing, I spent the end of last semester looking for an internship. Last year, I interned at a local non-profit – A Wider Circle – but I figured that now is the only time in my life I could try out a variety of things without feeling guilty that I wasn’t making any money doing so. At the advice of my minister at home in New Jersey, I decided to contact the UUA office in Washington, D.C., where I am going to school. It made sense to me. This would give me a chance to see the more political and action-oriented side of my faith. After countless emails and phone calls, I became the rare summer intern for the UUA Washington Office of Advocacy!

My first project involved a detailed analysis of data collected over the past two years from the emails sent out by the office to their various lists. Using what I could remember from high school statistics class, I did calculations, prepared graphs and charts and detailed explanations of what I had found. As a result of my work, the staff has decided to reorganize their lists to make communications more effective all around.

Of course, not everything was so glamorous. I did the requisite “intern work” of revising resource guides, creating databases, and other such tasks. But the most rewarding project allowed me to act upon what I was passionate about.

I spent a week earlier this summer on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota learning about and working with the Oglala-Lakota people. Horrified at the state of this third-world nation within our country, I knew I had to do something to try to fix it. At the UUA Washington Office I had the opportunity to work with Lisa Swanson, the Legislative Assistant for Racial and Economic Justice, to research and create a new portion of the website about Native American Justice. Now, there is extensive background information and ways to take action to help alleviate the sub-standard conditions that so many Native Americans are forced to live in.

So far, I’ve talked a lot about what I’ve done, but not so much about why I truly did it or how it fits into my life as a UU. I’m at that point in my college career where I’m supposed to be deciding what I want to do with my life. Until I came here, I was entirely unsure beyond “something that helps people.” However, I have been toying with the idea of becoming ordained as a minister since high school and now it’s making more and more sense. After all, it’s a profession that combines my strong UU faith, my love of people, and my belief in giving back to the world that I live in.

Being in the Washington Office has given me a small taste of the power a faith like ours has. I already knew the amazing energy that can come out of a group of people gathered in religious celebration, but this office has shown me the invaluable drive some people have to really make a difference. Between the employees here and the thousands of people who take action online, attend rallies, write their representatives and just plain care, I’m inspired to do more to continue that trend of putting faith into action.

Interning here has been a vital part of my path. I’ve met some amazing and motivated people. I’ve been able to see the behind-the-scenes of UUA social justice work. I’ve learned more about myself and what I want to do with my life. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty great way to spend a summer.

Celebrations of Racial Justice: Loving Day and Juneteenth

Happy Loving Day! Today is the 41st anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. And Juneteenth, the anniversary of the real end of slavery in the U.S., is in just one week! Read on for more information about these holidays and how you can celebrate them.

Loving Day – June 12
photo by Bettman/Corbis

In the 1950s, two teenagers named Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving fell in love in a town just north of Richmond, Virginia. Mildred was of Cherokee and Rappahannock American Indian and black racial heritage, while Richard was European American. In 1958, Mildred and Richard decided to marry. In order to avoid Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a state law that made marriage between white persons and non-white persons a felony, they drove eighty miles from their home in Virginia to D.C.

Upon returning home, the Lovings were found guilty for violating the ban on interracial marriage, and sentenced to 25 years of exile from the state of Virginia. In 1963, the ACLU helped the Lovings challenge the state’s ruling. As the case progressed, several church bodies declared their support (or non-prohibition) of interracial marriage, including the Presbyterian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. In 1967, the Supreme Court declared the Racial Integrity Act unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based restrictions on marriage in the United States. According to recent U.S. Census Data, today almost 5% of marriages in the United States are interracial.

“Loving Day,” the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision, is celebrated as “an educational community project . . . to fight prejudice through education and to build a sense of community among people who engage in meaningful interracial and intercultural relationships.” You can find all kinds of great resources at, including a list of celebrations happening across the country, a legal history of race & marriage, and a way-cool interactive map that shows which states restricted interracial couples over the years. Happy Loving Day!

Juneteenth – June 19

Coming up in one week is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, carrying the news that the Civil War had ended and those who had been enslaved were now free.

Although President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ostensibly ended slavery in the Confederate states on January 1st of 1863, the actual arrival of freedom often progressed only as quickly as Union forces moved through the South to enforce it. In April of 1865, General Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, and the remaining Confederate armies soon followed suit. Now that the fighting had ended, Union forces were able enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in states they had not yet reached in great numbers.

On June 19th, Union troops led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas, carrying the news of the Emancipation Proclamation. Two and a half years after slavery was declared illegal, it was finally abolished in Texas.

There are many ways to acknowledge Juneteenth, mourning the delay of justice and celebrating its arrival. Juneteenth can be celebrated with cookouts, prayer services, informational displays in your fellowship hall, or concerts. provides a wealth of resources, including a list of celebrations happening in the U.S. and international celebrations, the history of Juneteenth, and recommendations of how to celebrate.

Check back here next Thursday for a Juneteenth blog post. In the meantime, happy Loving Day!

The Longest Walk 2 Needs A Little Help

February 11th saw the beginning of the Longest Walk 2, a five month journey from California to D.C. initiated by Native Americans, intended to raise awareness of the need to clean up Mother Earth and protect Sacred Sites. Three months into the walk and less than two months away from reaching D.C., the Longest Walk is going strong, but needs a little help.

I am planning to join the walk in July when the Northern and Southern routes pass through Maryland and Virginia and meet in D.C. But at yesterday’s organizational meeting, the coordinators told us that despite numerous attempts to work through proper channels, they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to obtain proper camping permits at surrounding parks, especially in the D.C. area, and use of the National Mall when they arrive in D.C. on July 11, 2008.

The organizers told us that they’ve mailed in their application three times, starting in December, only to be told each time that the National Park Service never received it. After that, organizers tried to deliver the application in person four separate times, only to be told, each time, that they needed to go to a different office–twice they were told to go back to the office that they had just been to.

Tomorrow the Longest Walk 2 coordinators will be having a meeting with the National Park Service at 11 AM. In the meantime, they are asking that as many people as possible send an email to the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne by 11 AM, Tuesday, May 20. If you have fifteen seconds to click on the link, type in your name and address and hit send, the organizers of the Walk would greatly appreciate it.

To learn more about the Longest Walk 2, you can read stories, see photos, and watch videos from the walk. The walkers still need support, especially as two of their transport vehicles along the Southern Route have broken down. You can sponsor a walker through Paypal, or make a general donation.

Previous post on the Longest Walk 2:

2-11-08 – Native American Activists and Allies Embark on Longest Walk for Healing and Justice

Building the Border Wall Hurts Us All

On the grounds of “protecting national security,” the U.S. government wants to build a wall on the 2,000 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico, with estimated costs ranging between one and eight billion dollars. (For perspective, the first 11 miles of the wall near San Diego cost $42 million – that’s $3.8 million per mile.) The government is building this wall despite evidence that tells us that the Canadian border is far more susceptible to anti-U.S. terrorist activity than the Mexican border. (Yet the U.S. is not building a wall along the Canadian border). Also, where it has already been built, the wall is woefully ineffective at keeping people out, delaying crossing by a matter of minutes. Instead, the wall has made human smuggling a lucrative business.

The Bush administration wants to complete another 670 miles of this wall across the environmentally sensitive Southwest by the end of this year. On April 1st the Dept of Homeland Security announced that it would be waiving almost three dozen federal, state and local laws and regulations in order to accomplish this goal. DHS has the power to do this because Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, which amongst other things gave the Department of Homeland Security the ability to waive all legal requirements, as necessary, in order to expedite the construction of border walls.

Unfortunately, this was not a cruel April Fools joke. In addition to the exorbitant costs for something that isn’t effective, these waivers have other quite serious repercussions. First, in the name of security, they bypass the very laws designed to ensure our safety, including the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. This means for example that DHS can build its wall without monitoring the impact that it will have on the Rio Grande. (If there are no negative health impacts, then why the need to bypass the laws?)

Second, by bypassing laws that protect land ownership/use, DHS can force the rightful owners to sell the needed land. This includes the forced selling of First-Nation-owned, sacred, ancestral lands, violating the the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Third, it means that wildlife refuges that took years to create by painstakingly purchasing contiguous segments will be cut in half, bypassing laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act. The wall designed to segregate humans will also keep endangered species such as the ocelot from hunting and mating. It’s no wonder that the wall is opposed by a broad coalition of mayors, land-owners and environmental activists.

Our Seventh Principle, the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part, tells us that what we seek to do to one group also affects everything else including ourselves. As the examples above show, building a 2,000 mile wall across a continent hurts the most vulnerable people and animals on both sides of the border. We need a more holistic approach than building walls to reinforce boundaries that nature does not recognize. Looking at the economic forces that drive immigration and recognizing the need for equitable economic development would be a start.

Friends, if you are outraged by this latest abuse of power in the name of “security,” please do not let another abuse pass without resistance. Raise awareness. I’ve had a few people tell me that they didn’t even know about it. Tell your friends. Write letters to the editor. Blog. Make your voice heard.

Native American Activists and Allies Embark on the Longest Walk for Healing and Justice

Today over three hundred walkers are departing from San Francisco on a five month journey across eleven states to bring awareness to environmental and justice issues. Along the way, a rotating team of walkers will pick up trash, leaving 4,400 miles of road trash-free in their wake.

Iroquois tradition mandates that communities consider the impact of their decisions down to the seventh generation to come after them. The Longest Walk 2 is “a peaceful, spiritual effort to engage with the public about restoring harmony with the environment,” according to their website. The Longest Walk 2 is also setting out to call attention to how environmental degradation is hurting not only today’s communities, but also those of the future.

The walk is kicking off with a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, the site of Native American activists’ 18-month occupation from 1969 to 1971, which sparked modern Native American activism and resulted in the federal government shifting from a policy of termination to a policy of Indian self-determination.

Walkers will divide between two routes. The Northern Route will follow the route taken by walkers during the original Longest Walk in 1978, which helped defeat eleven bills that threatened Native American sovereignty. The Southern Route will trace the route of the Sacred Run of 2006, which added hurricane recovery to the justice agenda and passed through the Gulf Coast to be in solidarity with those rebuilding after the storm.

The Northern and Southern routes will meet in DC on July 11. You can follow the walkers’ progress by reading walkers’ blogs about their experiences in Voices From the Walk. Show your support by taking a look at the The Longest Walk 2’s wishlist of camping gear and first aid supplies, or sponsor a walker through Paypal. For more information, check out The Longest Walk 2’s website.

“We shall walk for the Seventh Generation, for our youth, for peace, for justice, for healing of Mother Earth, for the healing of our people suffering from diabetes, heart conditions, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other diseases.

Through the elements of the seasons, we shall walk through the rain, snow, over mountains, high winds, through the heat and cold, nothing shall deter us from completing our mission<. . .
Let those who doubt, hear our pledge. Let those who believe, join our ranks. As we walk the final miles, by our side will be elders, families, children, people of all races, from many walks of life, the old and the new America. All Life is Sacred, Clean Up Mother Earth.

–from The Longest Walk 2’s Mission Statement

Native Americans and Federal Native Policy: A Conversation With the Faith-Based Community

At the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy, we believe that the best way to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is to continue to work for justice. The following blog post is offered in that spirit.

On Friday afternoon, Kat and I, along with advocates from a dozen different faith groups, met for a forum on Native Americans and Federal Native Policy organized by the FCNL. There we learned about a few of the current grim realities that Native Americans are experiencing as a result of the flawed policies and mismanagement of the United States government.

One injustice that we learned about concerns health–the infant mortality rate is 150% greater for Indians than it is for Caucasians. Indian life expectancy is six years less than that of the rest of the US population. And the suicide rate for Indians is two and a half times higher than the national average.

Tomorrow, the reauthorization of a bill to improve Indian health will be voted on in the Senate. Reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 2007 (S.1200), or IHCIA, would update and enhance the care that Indian Health Services and Tribal Organizations are able to provide. IHCIA would provide resources for the social service and mental health needs of the Indian community, as well as medical needs.

IHCIA will be voted on tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 22) at 5:30 PM. Because we found out about this issue so late, our office did not send out an action alert; however, if you want to give your Senator’s office a call before the 5:30 vote tomorrow (the sooner the better!), then check out the National Indian Health Board’s IHCIA Fact Sheet and Action Alert for talking points.

A woman from the National Congress of American Indians told us that Native Americans are a very dis-empowered community in regards to their voice on national issues. “We had a much stronger voice in the 1970s, and the difference was you guys,” she said, scanning the room. “It was the national church organizations.” The voices of people of faith speaking to their representatives in Congress can lend strength and support to Native American organizations that are seeking justice.

In the future, I’ll try to stay attuned to federal legislation related to Native American justice issues, so that our office can give you plenty of notice for the next Action Alert. In the meantime, check out the National Congress of American Indians for ways to get involved!