Editor's Note | Vol. 20 | Issue 2

By Paula Julian, Filipina, Senior Policy Policy Specialist and Editor, NIWRC Restoration Magazine

Since our February edition of Restoration Magazine, much has happened. In February, the Departments of Interior and Justice convened the first in-person session of the Not Invisible Act Commission. They’ve also held field hearings across the country to hear from American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) peoples about the injustice of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP). These hearings will inform recommendations for a Report to Congress “focused on improving intergovernmental coordination and establishing best practices for state, Tribal, and federal law enforcement”1 on missing persons, murder, and trafficking of AI/AN. Please consider submitting written testimony, recommendations, or questions to the Commission at NIAC@ios.doi.gov. Include in the subject line: “NIAC Testimony” or “NIAC Question.”

In March, the Pope and the Vatican Church repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery” after Indigenous nations called on the Church to rescind the papal bulls. Papal bulls2 “underpin the “Doctrine of Discovery,” a legal concept coined in an 1823 U.S. Supreme Court decision that was has come to be understood as meaning that ownership and sovereignty over land passed to Europeans because they “discovered” it.”3

It is no secret that many governments—including the United States—have relied on this doctrine to justify the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and the taking of our lands. It is our sincere hope that today’s announcement is more than mere words, but rather is the beginning of a full acknowledgment of the history of oppression and a full accounting of the legacies of colonialism…”4

This mistreatment is reflected in all the disparities experienced by American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian peoples, including violence against women. Numerous government and religious documents over the centuries attest to these injustices. The U.S. apologized in 1993 to Native Hawaiians (Public Law 103-150) and in 2009 to AI/AN (Section 8113, H.R.3326) for “years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” and the “violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.”

From May 1-7, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) organized our 3rd National Week of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Action with our National Partners and MMIW Family Advisors. We reached 4.2 million accounts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, educating the public about the truths about MMIW and our Advocacy in Action: 6-Point Action Plan to reform systemic barriers and restore the safety of Indigenous women.

The resistance and groundswell of Indigenous survivors, nations, communities, and allies to colonization and the spectrum of violence against Indigenous women have provided the political will for leadership of the U.S., Canada, and the Vatican to apologize for their crimes against Indigenous peoples and nations. We must continue to advocate for action that nourishes healing, resolution, and accountability balancing between the Western and Indigenous understandings of healing, resolution, and accountability.

Thank you to everyone around the world and in the U.S., including our NIWRC staff, Board, Tribes, numerous strong-hearted Tribal and Native Hawaiian partners, domestic and international allies, first responders, policymakers, and especially our survivors, their families and advocates who continue to resist and organize our groundswell 24/7 to respond to violence against women. Many of us respond not just because it’s a job but because we understand and accept the responsibility of what it means to be a relative, to be human, to be (fill in the blank: an Indigenous person), to be spirits on a human journey as Tillie Black Bear would say. That understanding and responsibility fuels many of us across the country and reflects the resilience of Indigenous peoples.

We want and deserve to know what it is to have families, nations, and communities rich with love, hope, happiness, laughter, respect, compassion, caring, generosity, forgiveness, and so much more. We take care of each other no matter what. We leave no one behind. The articles in this edition speak to these truths, and I hope you see your truths reflected in these pages in some way. These pages glimpse the many strong hearts responding to violence against women everywhere—past, present, and future. Thank you. You are not alone or forgotten. You are connected. We are connected. As Tillie once told me, we belong to many communities, and it is in that belonging that we find life, purpose, actions, and meaning. Restoration Magazine documents the intent, actions, and importance of our work domestically and internationally to restore sovereignty to increase Native women’s safety. We are re-building Nations one Tribe and community at a time which nourishes our groundswell.

Since our 2015 Women Are Sacred Conference, we have awarded the Tillie Black Bear Women Are Sacred Memorial Award to honor Tillie’s legacy and recognize outstanding grassroots advocates that exemplify the teachings and dedication that Tillie instilled in our movement to restore healing and safety for Native women. Working within a Tribal/Native community, the recipients are Indigenous women in the movement who advocate from a woman and survivor-centered, culturally grounded approach, are known for leadership in social change initiatives, and uplift our connections as relatives. We lift up and honor our past recipients—Colleen Clark, Carmen O’Leary, Leanne Guy, and Sandra Pilgrim-Lewis. Join us in honoring the new recipient on June 26, 2023, at our upcoming conference! Go to niwrc.org/was for more information.

Join and support local, Native, state, national, and international organizing to remove systemic barriers and restore Indigenous protections by strong-hearted survivors, their families, advocates, and others who understand that restoring sovereignty to increase Native women’s safety is possible.

Paula S. Julian
(Washté Wiya, Good Woman), Filipina
Editor, Restoration of Native Sovereignty and Safety for Native Women & Interim Director for Policy, NIWRC

1 bit.ly/3We5Csd
2 Papal bulls are a type of public decree issued by a pope of the Catholic Church: bit.ly/45aEbnh
3 bit.ly/3MjmPf5
4 bit.ly/41PIK3v