Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

WomenSpirit Coalition: Influencing a Violence-Free Future for Tribal Communities


“American Indian and Alaska Native women are raped at a rate three to 10 times greater than the national average … changing this statistic should be the number one priority of tribal governments because rape is a direct and serious threat to tribal sovereignty.” – Tanya H. Lee in “The Beginning and End of Rape” on Indian Country Today Media Network

Violence against women affects not only one person, but also the victim’s family and community. The statistics regarding violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women are staggering -- More than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime. More than 730,000 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in the past year alone (from Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men, National Institute of Justice Research Report, May 2016).

The issues related to high rates of violence against Native women are complex and have deep roots in America’s colonial, political and legal history within Indian Country. In order to address these complexities and how best to approach domestic and sexual violence from a tribal, community-based perspective, The WomenSpirit Coalition’s (WSC) Forget Me Not: A Call to Action! Sexual Assault Summit and strategic planning meeting was held in Seattle, Washington. WSC is one of the oldest Native domestic violence coalitions in the United States, with its work starting in the 1940s.

At the Spring 2016 Summit, tribal representatives from throughout the state of Washington gathered as concerned citizens and allies to strategize on how they can connect with the WomenSpirit Coalition’s mission and to coordinate efforts to reduce violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. The participants included WSC board members, employees, tribal elders representing various Indian nations, as well as diverse partners; all are activists who want a healthy and safe existence and future for Native women. During the strategic planning session, the participants focused on a 10-year vision for the WomenSpirit Coalition, with a focus on three areas of effort that, when achieved, will move tribes and their communities toward the following:

1. Becoming Strong, Self-Governing Nations that are Free of Violence

2. Trust, Peace & Wellness as Communities

3. Practicing & Creating Opportunities and Resources that Achieve Self-Sufficiency

One of the key facilitators for this summit included Dee Koester, the WomenSpirit Coalition executive director, who is a visionary and founding partner in the Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence that is designed to strengthen tribal coalitions and their work, strengthen coalition services and activities, and provide prevention and elimination services to the national coalition network. As shared by Dee during one of WSC’s previous summits, “We will continue to provide technical assistance to the 29 tribes in Washington State to develop responsive domestic violence and sexual assault tribal programs. We will be steadfast in our work to eliminate violence against Native women.”

Through encouragement, education and awareness, the WomenSpirit Coalition has made numerous contributions to the emergence and development of the tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalition network in the U.S. This network is made up of diverse, resourceful, experienced and caring leaders from tribal coalitions located in more than 16 states. The tribal coalitions are funded through a variety of sources including the federal government, foundations, tribes and individual donors.

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