American Indigenous Perspectives on Domestic Violence: Issues for the 21st Century

Dr. Cynthia Willis Esqueda,
Melissa Tehee
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Violent victimization rates are higher among American indigenous people than among any other racial group, and the prevalence of indigenous domestic violence is increasing. Indigenous people victimized in intimate or family relationships are assaulted by someone of another race more frequently than victims of other racial groups. The inter-racial nature of domestic violence offenses is important because the race of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence impacts culpability attributions made by observers. The effect is particularly marked for racial minorities, as there is a bias against indigenous women in abuse cases, and indigenous women view domestic abuse differently than European American women. The current vulnerability of indigenous women to domestic abuse should signal a need for governmental responses at the tribal and federal levels. Addressing factors that contribute to violence is never a simple task; however, several factors complicate the response of tribal nations to the problem.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has continued to diminish the sovereignty of tribes, it has also diminished the ability of tribes to effectively protect their members. Centuries of systematic and deliberate attempts by the U.S. government to force American Indians to reform their nature (from what U.S. courts labeled, "fierce savages, whose occupation was war") have succeeded in weakening the traditional community-base upon which tribal social regulations were founded. The result has been an explosion of domestic violence among tribal members – violence previously foreign to collective societies and cultures. As sovereignty and traditional social controls have decayed, tribes have lacked the autonomy to effectively address community social problems, including domestic violence. However, current reforms in federal law, tribal programs, and aetiology of women's health may produce methods of reducing indigenous violence in the 21st century.

Keywords: American Indigenous Perspectives, Domestic Violence
Stream: First Nations and Indigenous Peoples
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Cynthia Willis Esqueda

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr Cynthia Willis Esqueda received her Ph.D. in Psychology from University of Kansas in 1990. She has been a professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 1991. Currently, she is an associate professor with a joint appointment in Department of Psychology and Ethnic Studies, and she is the coordinator for Native American Studies. Her research focuses on racial biases in the legal system, with a focus on indigenous populations.

Melissa Tehee

student, Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Melissa Tehee is a student in the Department of Psychology. She has been a McNair Scholar and UCARE Research Scholar. Her work focuses on social policy and issues of importance to indigneous people. She will be entering a graduate program in fall 2005.

Ref: H05P0271