Dwanna Robertson: Indian people long exploited by legal system

Mah-hi-Vist GoodBlanket was shot to death by police officers in Oklahoma in December 2013. Family photo

Dwanna Robertson explores the lack of trust between Native communities and the justice system:
From the late 1700s, American Indians have been exploited and brutalized by the U.S. legal system. Over the centuries, U.S. armed forces gave way to local, state, and federal legal institutions to enforce the laws of a white society. Legislative acts of Congress, administrative directives from presidents, and judicial rulings by state and federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have upheld an unjust canon of law against Indigenous Peoples.

Imagine the number of cases of Native women, men, and children victimized by sexual assault, physical violence, and/or police harassment and brutality that go unreported because of this distrust. Imagine the impact of being too scared to call the police because they’re the ones who might hurt you.

We don’t have to try that hard. On December 21, 2013, Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket was shot seven times by the very people his father had called to help him. Mah-hi-vist, a citizen of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Nation in Oklahoma, suffered from a diagnosed mental disorder and was experiencing an episode. His parents, Melissa and Wilbur, were afraid that their 18-year-old son might harm himself. So, they did what any parent might do. They called 911.

Within moments of four local law enforcement entering the Goodblanket home, Mah-hi-vist was dead. An autopsy found that the teen was shot seven times and tasered twice. On April 28 on the Facebook page created to spread the news of her son’s death, Melissa posted that one shot was “to the back of his head.” The Custer County sheriff’s department claims that the teen threatened them with a knife. The family disputes this. The shooting has been ruled justifiable by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. I wasn’t surprised then, either.

Get the Story:
Dwanna L. Robertson: No Surprise, But We All Should Matter (Indian Country Today 12/3)

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