The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to: Racism, Sexism, and Oppression?
Infant mortality is higher in teen births, birth weights of their babies lower, the possibility of premature birth and the birth defects more common in premature births. Premature birth is higher in this sector of the population, often due to violence during the prenatal period.
The rise in teen birth Indian country is alarming. “46% of Native American mothers are under 20 when they have their first child, compared with 25% of mothers of all other races . The average age for becoming pregnant has become lowered from mid to upper teenage years down to pre-teen groups of 9-12 year old girls!
“Boys and girls who experience sexual dating violence are more likely to initiate sex before age 11 ”. These issues would not have incurred had the elder women counseled and instructed their younger relatives on traditional women’s roles and young men counseled and instructed by elder males, as was traditionally done.
There were two ceremonies that were traditionally done for young girls, that are now rarely found in today’s Lakota Society. The pivotal ceremony for girls was the Isnati ceremony. This ceremony was done at a female’s first menses. The young girl would have had the instruction given by elder women regarding her role in society, especially as to virtuous behaviors, her place within society, pregnancy, and childbearing. women regarding her role in society, especially as to virtuous behaviors, her place within society, pregnancy, and childbearing.
Sexual Objectification of Native Women
Rape and domestic violence in Native populations have been on the rise, but within the teen population is another aspect to be considered: gangs. Gang rapes and gang violence is high among native youth, and the female population is especially vulnerable. Although there is a high risk, in one study it was reported that those who perpetrated dating violence did not use a condom deliberately despite “high risk activity such as sexual infidelity, involving “trains” and multiple sex partners ”.
As well as gang related violence and rape, young girls are also vulnerable to date rape. In 1994, “92% who had sexual intercourse reported as having been forced against their will ”. Women ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. The violence that is inherent in this age group limits the ability of teenage girls to manage their reproductive health and also causes them to be vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.
1996, the rate of reported rape among Native women was 3.5 times higher than other races. This is just the reported rapes! Add to this population, those who have been subjected to another type of criminal activity: Sex Trafficking. It has occurred since the colonial era. It is only recently that the United States Government has classified Human Trafficking as a form of slavery.
Most of the Sex Trafficking occurs in areas near First Nation Reserves (Canada), Native American Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. To understand the particular vulnerability of Native women to Sex Traffickers, you only need to look at the historical perspective. In the United States, the military that oversaw westward expansion ‘targeted native women for sexual assault, sexual mutilation, and slaughter’, as seen in numerous accounts of that time.
Compounding all the aforementioned issues is the accumulated impact of the historical experiences creating a “generational trauma” with increased levels of trauma response and stress that passed from one generation to the next, over several consecutive generations. The generational trauma is thought to be the ‘major contributor’ to the level of ‘poverty, violent victimization, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and child abuse’ in Indian country today. It is also thought to be the reason for generational prostitution and child trafficking in the Native families.
Traffickers exploit the areas in which this population has vulnerability. One method is to portray the sex trade as a quick way to become personally empowered and have financial independence. Another is to target those who are homeless or have been impacted by poverty.
Exploitation is done of those with mental illness, have substance abuse issues, FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), and those with who are Two-Spirit (transgender) are deliberately sought due to their vulnerability on the streets from violence, and are offered protection (Pierce and Koepplinger,3).
Next: Part 5 – Conclusion (and references).