Terese Marie Mailhot

Terese Mailhot: It takes a community to exploit indigenous women and girls

Indigenous women and girls face threats in any community, whether it's on or off a reservation. Writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) addresses the ongoing exploitation of people at risk:
It takes a community to exploit a Native woman. When the exploitation or assault of an indigenous woman is discussed there are comments blaming the woman, or the condition of Indian life, or they say something self-righteous—failing to see the irony in how awful people who can’t empathize appear to the public. Those sentiments, and those attitudes towards human life, are some reasons people can capitalize on our bodies. There’s animus towards us when we state publicly that we’re aware of the threats against us, or that we move through the world sometimes as profiled criminals—considering a man’s age, experiences, and behavior to assess our risk in interacting with him, or coming into his periphery. The pushback to our voices feels like its own conspiring—it’s own threat.

The threat of exploitation was always present in my life, even after I became a graduate student. There is a difference, though, between an adjunct college teacher’s level of exploitation and the super-exploitation indigenous women are threatened with when we experience poverty, or when we are between jobs, or post-partum with jobs and daycare, or between homes. Because of the lack of concern exhibited within the justice system, and the racial animus towards us in public, the dangers against us are more present and dangerous.

On welfare, or homeless, or out of foster-care, or walking home from school along the highway—there was looming threat. Men and women were ready to capitalize on my desperation. The word desperation has been used to belittle people. Even using the word “poor” to describe a state I was in has sparked outrage from Native readers who tell me, “We’re not poor because we are rich in culture.”

Read More on the Story:
Terese Mailhot: It Takes a Community to Exploit Indigenous Women (Indian Country Media Network 6/30)