I must make a clarification in that I have been a regularly featured op-ed columnist here at Indianz.com since the end of March of this year (and not since May 2009 as previously stated). I have never in all that time received such a flurry of emails than I have with my last op-ed, "Melvin Martin: A taboo subject in Indian Country.".
An unprecedented number of people across the United States emailed me in reference to this op-ed, a rather unplanned bit of writing that was essentially my way of mentally and emotionally processing the horror of these particular offenses - but which also touched a major nerve among the readership at Indianz.com.
In this particular op-ed I expressed my absolute astonishment at the severe absence of any outrage on the part of so-called "Indian Country" at the sentencing of "a well-known advocate for Native American children (Kevin Peniska)," to a prison term of 110 years for rape and child abuse. Little did I know when I wrote this column that a major response was already well under way in the Northern Plains region to address the chronic problems associated with child sexual abuse throughout America's tribal communities.
Elrae Potts of the HOPE Conference
emailed me on November 17th with an alert that a special event was to be held in the same location where Peniska was sentenced for his crimes.
And in my last op-ed here, I asked the question that for decades has gone sadly unanswered by Indian people everywhere: Why is the problem of child sexual trauma so widespread and continuous throughout our reservations? Via the sheer number of highly informative, educational and enlightening emails from readers courageous enough to comment on this terrible subject, I am now in full and total agreement with the conventional wisdom that this abuse has its ugly origins in the worst years of the reservation boarding school system in America.
One of my cousins, a WWII Navy veteran (now deceased), told me shortly after I graduated from high school in 1971 that when he was forced to attend a church-run, South Dakota boarding school in the late '30s that quite a few of his male peers had been raped by those in charge; to include administrators, teachers, support staff and clergy. It is now common knowledge everywhere one travels in Indian Country that reservation boarding schools in that era were, as my aforementioned cousin so aptly stated, a "pedophile's paradise."
Wherever Indian boarding schools were situated, from New York to California and from Florida to Alaska, word went out within the "pedophile community" (yes, there was and still is such a thing, global in its extent according to international law enforcement authorities) that there were fields aplenty to be abhorrently harvested by any enterprising child molester. Thus, child sexual abuse on U.S. Indian reservations, and off-reservation facilities, too, became a monstrous "cottage industry" that flourished for well over seventy years (according to recent estimates).
In this writer's opinion, the worst aspect of all of this perverse trauma was that the victims became the victimizers, and thus came into being the hideous aftermath of the all-too-pervasive and long-term child sex crimes that are only now being seriously addressed by concerned members of our communities - among them Elrae Potts, the conference coordinator for the upcoming gathering as described in the conference literature as follows:
"The HOPE (Healing for our People Everywhere) Conference is scheduled to take place in in Rapid City, SD at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn on December 18, 19, and 20, 2009; coinciding with the Lakota Nation Invitational. The purpose of this conference is to begin an open dialogue and the healing process by addressing the silent epidemic of child sexual trauma which has plagued Indian Country for generations.
This conference is open to the public. This is a difficult topic but one that needs to be addressed from the inside of Indian Country out. This event is for those interested in responding to a call for action regarding opening the dialogue about child sexual trauma in Indian Country. The epidemic of sexual trauma and sexual abuse is well documented statistically and yet remains prevalent among Native people.
The HOPE Conference endeavors to respond by calling upon Indian Country´s finest experts, community leaders, artists/activists, health care professionals and survivors to bring this subject to the circle for an open dialogue, to consider solutions and to begin the healing process."
Lastly, to Indian people everywhere, I very strongly urge you to make arrangements as soon as possible to attend this important event and to do all that you can to get the word out. Now!
Melvin Martin is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of
South Dakota. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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