Colorism In Indigenous Communities

The above image illustrates how colorism works in America. There is a strong rhetoric, even among communities of color, that women with lighter skin are more conventionally attractive, more low key and easier to be around, while the darker your shade of skin, the more you are perceived as difficult, petty and unattractive. Light-skinned women are girlfriend and wife material, while dark-skinned women are cast as trap-queens and one-night stands. Even Snapchat filters lighten our skin. It’s no wonder that Lil Kim, experiencing this insidious internalized racism, transformed from a dark-skinned black woman to a light-skinned black woman. 

Monissia Roberts, a junior in college, and a nursing student, describes the battles she has faced with colorism and the way lighter-skinned POC can ally with those whose who face colorism, like this, “Colorism is a discrimination against people who are dark skinned. It’s something that is big in the Black community. There was Team Light Skin and Team Dark Skin, but Team Dark Skin was created due to Team Light Skin being praised and putting down dark-skinned people, specifically dark-skinned black women. Colorism has basically been affecting my life for twenty years. Growing up, people would always refer to me as ugly and dirty due to my dark skin tone. When the movie Precious came out, I was called Precious. Precious was a fat and dark-skinned black woman who was perceived as very ugly by our current society. My mom even made fun of me for being dark-skinned because she was a lighter skin tone. She never supported me being dark. Due to the vicious colorism I faced from POC and the racism I faced from white people, I started to bleach my skin at a young age. I wanted to be lighter – not even lighter, I wanted to be white. There’s privilege that lighter skinned POC have, but they usually deny it because they’re still a minority that is affected by white supremacy and racism. Denying that privilege is only making it worse for dark-skinned POC because we face more challenges. What lighter-skinned POC can do is listen to dark-skinned people when we talk about colorism and how it affects our daily lives. Advocate for dark skin representation in the media, be an ally and support everything that we do because that makes us feel better about our deep melanin.”

In reaction to memes that stigmatize and dehumanize dark-skinned women, new memes are being created to push back against the stereotypes and celebrate women of all skin tones. 

Of course, no meme can be perfect. While such memes begin to address colorism, particularly against dark-skinned black women, how do we begin addressing colorism in Native American communities, where so many Indigenous women are white-passing? Passing for white doesn’t stop a Native woman from being affected by colonialism. It doesn’t erase historical trauma. It doesn’t cause a woman to forget the legacy of boarding schools, or recall her language to her. But let us take this one step further. Having light skin when you are American Indian doesn’t change the statistics of rape – one in three – or the likelihood of your being raped or assaulted – twelve times the national average. And keep in mind, Indigenous women weren’t protected by law, and Native communities weren’t able to prosecute rapists, all the way up until 2015, when the VAWA, with increased protections for Indigenous women, finally came into effect.

In addition, the missing and murdered Indigenous women of North America have skin tones that range on a spectrum. It seems that they are being murdered on the basis of their nationality, not their color. In every way, white-passing privilege aids Native American women only on the outside, and only as long as they keep up the ruse. So the question is: are Native American women being forgotten in conversations about who is respected and disrespected because they present-white?

My argument here is not that Native American women who present white don’t benefit from white-passing privilege, because they certainly can and do in measurable external ways. They are less likely, in communities where they are not known, to be stopped by police officers. It may be easier for them to get jobs, to obtain promotions, to be viewed with more respect by their colleagues and peers. 

White-passing privilege is useful and terrifying. It separates us from those we love. It is no respecter of persons. Two siblings from the same parents could have green and brown eyes, respectively. I’ve given presentations where light-skinned Natives in the audience have told me how guilty they felt when they were let through customs and their parents were stopped. There’s a confusion and a dysphoria that you experience when you know yourself to be nationally and culturally and familially Indigenous but your skin screams, “white,” and your community, and even communities of color eschew you and make you feel less-than. They often don’t do this intentionally. It’s done as a means of self-preservation. And we don’t mean to continually center the conversation around ourselves. But the question of who we are, and what our identity is, and how we fit, is so important to us as Native people.

I’ve often made white jokes about myself so that other people won’t. I joke about my Starbucks modifiers and my Uggs, my Netflix and my Chill. But none of this erases the smallpox blankets and the boarding schools. And that is only the traumatic history of being American Indian, which we sometimes get so caught up in we forget about the beautiful things about Indigenous community, the sweetgrass gathering, totem-pole carving, powwows, beadwork and canoe journey. And there is also intentional community created in inner-cities, and on Facebook community pages, in group chats, through poetry circles and writing clubs, through websites like Sovereign Bodies. 

Native women and their struggles need to be considered fully, and on the basis of more than their skin tone alone. And as this happens, we need to support our Black sisters and magnify their voices and create spaces for them, so that as women of color everywhere we lift each other up.

If We Get Pulled Over…

If we get pulled over, I hope I’m driving. 

I hope I’m driving because my husband’s beautiful full blood skin and stoic stare may be too much for a cop to bare. 

I hope I’m driving because I fall just a few shades lighter on the criminal scale…

Because when they approach the vehicle they’ll see me – sitting there – hoping, for the first time in my life, that I appear…white. 

I’d explain how a member of my family serves alongside them…

I might even drop their name – so they may clearly hear the white there. 

And with these defenses in place,

I would pray my half white privilege would be enough to shield my other skin from deadly assumptions. 

With my hands gripping the wheel, I’d be cursing myself for hiding…myself. 

But I would. 

I would because all the while I’m acting as white as possible, Diamond Reynold’s video of her fiancé’s last moments would be seared to my retinas – just as that moment is to hers.

These are the thoughts looping in my mind…

All this to prepare – stay alive…survive. 

Survive – it’s all we’ve been doing for over 500 years…

…I’m tired of surviving. 

It’s time we live. 

 

To Write Poetically Or Imaginatively About What I Know of the Work of Erika Wurth

Erika Wurth is the young Apache writer all the girls want to be, the Indigenous Janis Joplin if Joplin had been a writer instead of an addict, and every bit as cool and buoyant. When I first met her, she sat in front of the room at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) in a bright orange dress with steel-cut bangs and long, dark hair, licking her lips and watching the audience with a knowing smile, her responses to their questions sharp with rolling wit. 

Her own first novel is about a similar rebel-personality, 16-year-old Margaritte, taking a page from Perma Red author Debra Earling’s book and naming her protagonist after her strong relative, in this case, her warrior grandmother. Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend brought Wurth into the fray as a major Indigenous voice to be reckoned with. Booklist called it, “a compelling and affecting look at the ineluctable awfulness of some teens’ lives,” while Story Circle Reviews called it a “wonderful addition to Native American literature.” But just as much as Wurth is a major voice in American Indian literature, she is a mentor, an older-sister figure and an activist. Here are some of her thoughts on writing, AWP, and her journey as an artist and an American Indian woman.

How did you become a writer? Stumble upon your voice? Curate it? Open yourself up to the worlds you create? Become vulnerable to them? Let them move through you?

I don’t know how I became a writer really. I know that the desire to write came fairly early for me even though I didn’t know any writers. I was really into fantasy and horror and sci-fi and ultimately I think because my home life had chaos and there was chaos in my community where I went to school, the desire to retreat into a fantasy world was very appealing. I also have noticed that a lot of writers come from troubled backgrounds, or at least the ones I love and I think it’s because if there’s anything beyond being a hugely obsessive reader that makes a writer, it’s tension, tension in your life and therefore tension in an interesting way on the page. And I had no idea how to facilitate that for myself until maybe my masters degree. I was frightened of taking creative writing classes in college, probably because my whole life, in regards to the idea of being a writer, was so internal and my parents were not exactly excited about the idea, in fact my dad threatened to take me out of school if I majored in English. You can hardly blame them though, they had come from very little and had gotten four year degrees. And they had jobs they really loved that did speak to their childhood fantasies. My dad wanted to be an astronaut and he became an aerospace engineer and my mom wanted to be an actress and she became a dance teacher, and owner of her own studio.

At AWP this year, we saw panel after panel of amazing brown-skinned writers being asked by white folks what your opinion was of white people who want to write Native characters. How did this make you feel? What was your response?

There is a deeply deflating quality to that question. Because you have all of this intellectual life and energy and creative life around what you’re doing and this is the only thing that people want to ask you about? The one thing you don’t care about at all? And then when you do think about it, because you have to because it’s asked again and again, it’s so clear that people who want to write about Natives have given zero thought about the fact that there have been one billion people writing about Natives in this country and there are now, and those people are being published again and again when people like me are not. And they’ve given little thought to the fact that we need room to write about ourselves and when you ask them why, it’s all about do they have the right to and can you give them permission, there’s no intellectual or emotional work around it. I will say however though that I was asked to be on a panel about this right after this last AWP, and initially I was tepid and internally resentful and then finally when I was going to email this person and say, actually no I don’t want to talk about do white people have the right to write about Indians – but then I decided to tell him why this is so lame – and that could we please restructure the panel about why do white people want to write about Indians when it’s ultimately very colonialist and he was receptive and though I actually couldn’t end up being on the panel, the panel was submitted to AWP and it’s looking to be a pretty much all Native panel. I think the problem with this is that people do not want to see Native people as human beings, they want to see us as exotic and far away and objects to make authentic or not, which isn’t helped by the fact that so many Americans are insistent on this distant part-Cherokee heritage, and when we actually become people, then it’s problematic. A word I hate with a passion, but there it is. I was asked to lead a workshop last summer, and when another Native writer and I responded to this question yet again, it was clear we were characterized as angry, which is the other side of the coin for minorities, right? If we can’t be nice and subservient and exotic and we resist the narrative no matter how diplomatically, then we are characterized as angry. And neither of us were invited back. What was funny though, was that I had suggested on my feedback that instead of having all white people and two Indians, they could consider having Latinos and black folks and etc and having scholarships for the students in that regard and inviting faculty from diverse backgrounds. So there were no Indians this year, but they invited a Latino writer who I happen to know is a fairly vicious personality. But of course at least they took my advice?

Editors have often said your work is too dark. What do they really mean by that, and how do you respond? Do you feel pigeonholed by this, the too-frequent response to your writing?

For my first novel, some of the criticism from big presses was that it was too dark but a lot of it after it was published was that it is too vulgar. And there were a few of the big reviewers who thought the ending was too happy, which is hilarious since it’s completely a classic literary ending, cheesy as that is – where I’m not saying which way this character is going to go, because that is like life and that is why so many literary folks choose that kind of ending. But I suppose if you come from some sort of white Judeo-Christian background where getting the guy is the only thing, then I suppose hearing from the abusive love interest at the end of the novel is going to seem like a happy ending. But if you’ve been paying attention to the entire novel, you would see that it’s potentially a continuation of the cycle of abuse the main character has been in her whole life, as have many people in her community. I think that in the small presses – and in the large, so much of it is dominated by women and generally white women, with extremely delicate sensibilities and their lives are extremely small, in terms of who they meet and what their worlds are like. And that’s fine, but I’m not interested in that. Where I come from there is a poetry there – and there is beauty, but there is a brutality that I would be wrong to ignore. And I think sometimes what they mean, in regards to the rejections of my second novel, which is about gang life in an urban Native community, is that they don’t want to face what I’m talking about. They don’t want to humanize all of these Native people that they see that they can just generally put in a corner and say I have nothing in common with that man. But that is my job and it is my first job, which is again to talk poetically and imaginatively and frankly honestly about what I’m seeing. 

What are the main themes in your writing? What messages do you want to express? For whom do you write?

These are difficult questions because they’re sort of the kinds of questions to ask when you’re writing a paper and I feel like writing creatively is kind of the opposite of that, as it’s not immediately analytical. And often, I don’t know what I’m doing in there – I just get in there, with the people that I’m compelled to get in there with and then I watch them make bad and interesting decisions. It is clear though, in retrospect, that I’m interested in tragedy in my work and I’m interested in redemption. Which makes me sound really neoclassical or British. And I can definitely say that what I’m not interested in is creating work that is hyper concerned with how outsiders see Native people. I’m interested in the stories that generate and take root inside of our diverse communities, which are the urban and small town for me. And of course there has to be a politics underneath and pushing up, but that’s not my first job. My first job is not unlike Salinger’s or Carver’s, to write poetically and imaginatively about what I know. Not to preach at white people because frankly, doesn’t that just put them right back at the center of the narrative and I’m not interested in that. And frankly, it creeps me out when they are, or even more so when we are. A story should just be a beautifully rendered piece of life, a piece of life that only you can talk about in that specific way.

 

July 4, 2016: Clauses of Freedom

Fourth of July…
I almost forgot how sickening it can be when you’re on the otherside…

Firework stand. 
Oh what fun! 
Fire and light always a joy…right?
Buy em up! 
Fill your cart…
Hundreds of millions spent to be blown apart. 

“What year did we get our freedom?” The cashier gleefully asks.

Answer correctly & win a prize whose very mechanism is the tool which caused/s the demise of…”freedom”.

Freedom which has yet to be fully achieved…

You see – our freedom is intertwined & as long as you continue to say “our”, you perpetuate a lie. 
The lie of being “equal”…

It’s really quite simple-

Criteria for Equality 2016:
money
status
white
male

Criteria for Equality 1776:
money
status
white
male

240 years – have things really changed? 

Freedom with clauses is no freedom at all. 

July 4th 1776 may mark the start of “freedom” for some…

For others – the very gunpowder we light marked the end.

The end of languages,
spiritual practices, 
culture,
nation…

The end of Self. 

So if you must – 

Celebrate because we are still here. 
Celebrate because we are still fighting. 
Celebrate because you’re pushing for a better tomorrow. 

But do not celebrate because we are free. 

So You Want to Go On Canoe Journey

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 Misty Shipman Ellingburg
Misty Shipman Ellingburg

Each year, thousands of pullers bring their canoes to the shores of host tribes’ beaches. Since its inception in 1989, Tribal Journeys has been hosted by Seattle, Bella Bella, La Push, Ahousaht, Lummi, Neah Bay and Quinault at Taholah, to name a few. This Pacific Northwestern tradition brings together Coast Tribes of diverse nationalities, as canoe families travel from as far as New Zealand to share in the pageantry, ceremony and athletic endeavor that is Tribal Journeys.

Canoe culture is about honor, dignity, self-respect and family. It hearkens back to ancestral ties. Said Gary Johnson, former chair of the Chinook tribe, “We know when that fog and mist comes in, that our ancestors are traveling in that fog, traveling with us, and all those people who have gone before us and have shown us the way.”

As much as you may have heard about this celebration of family and culture, what exactly is Tribal Journeys, and how do you get connected? Do you have to be Native American to participate in Tribal Journeys? And what should you expect when you’re planning to attend? Look no further, because this article should help you with Tribal Journeys 101.

 

1.     What is Tribal Journeys?

In 1989, Paddle to Seattle celebrated the first annual celebration of centuries’ old traditions, with tribes coming from Alaska, British Columbia and fifteen different tribes. Paddle to Seattle, brought about by Elder Emett Oliver, brought back the canoe culture in our region of the world. Of the journey, Johnson said, “My first thought is that the canoe journey is all about teaching our youth and having our entire families here, and at this point it’s really something that we plan for and work at all year round, ‘cause it’s that important. It includes teaching song and drums and dancing, and these have all been handed down.”

Tony Johnson, the skipper of the Chinook family, noted, “This is creating a situation where the youth and people of our communities want to participate so much they’re willing to change their lives. We have expectations of people that the participants are gonna act a certain way, respect our traditions, not drink, do drugs, not abuse themselves or others. That’s what it’s really about. We know of our issues in Indian Country that we’ve inherited over the years, and I really believe that there’s nothing changing those things better than Tribal Journeys.”

 

2. How do you get connected? Do you have to be Native American to participate?

Indian Country is small, and with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media, it gets smaller all the time. You don’t have to be Native American to participate in Canoe Journey, but you do need to be travelling with a Canoe Family. There are dozens, if not more than a hundred, Canoe Families along the coast in the areas of traditional canoe culture. They meet, often monthly, to practice songs, protocol and dances, and to discuss preparatory needs for the journey. Ask yourself why you want to go on the Journey, especially if you aren’t Indigenous, and how it will benefit yourself and others, then see if your local tribe has a Canoe Family. Families are extremely open and welcoming. Whether you are a baby, or eighty years old, there is always a role you can play in a Canoe Family, no matter your level of athleticism. You can prepare the food, drive the vehicles ahead of the pullers to set up the tents and camping areas, or you can do what I did, and be a writer and blogger.

 

3. What should you expect when planning for Tribal Journeys?

You should expect a difficult two-to-three weeks. If you’re a puller, which is someone who paddles in the canoe, your arms and legs and shoulders and butt will hurt. But when you get to each separate landing at each tribe and campground, you will be greeted by dozens of people singings songs to welcome you. You should expect not to be drinking or doing drugs. At the end of the journey, you will receive a hand-made bronze ring that you wear around your neck, which many participants wear year-round. Each successive year you complete a journey, you receive a glass bead to go next to your ring. It’s a huge honor to wear these and symbolizes years of clean living.

You should expect to have to push through hard times. The motto for Paddle to Quinault was Dig Deep, and that was something every participant, from young to old, had to continuously do. But if you go, it will certainly change your life.

After you finish the journey and land on the shore of the host tribe, there is a solid week of protocol, day and, night, non-stop, where you present your songs and dances to the hostntribe and watch the protocol of the other families. It is a time to celebrate, socialize, enjoy good food, good company, and relax after a long and happy journey.

 Misty Shipman Ellingburg
Misty Shipman Ellingburg

 

And finally, here are the ten rules of Tribal Journeys!

1. EVERY STROKE WE TAKE IS ONE LESS WE HAVE TO MAKE

Keep going! Even against the most relentless wind or retrograde tide, somehow a canoe moves forward. This mystery can only be explained by the fact that each pull forward is a real movement and not a delusion.

 

2. THERE IS TO BE NO ABUSE OF SELF OR OTHERS

Respect and trust cannot exist in anger. It has to be thrown overboard, so the sea can cleanse it. It has to be washed off the hands and cast into the air, so the stars can take care of it. We always look back at the shallows we pulled through, amazed at how powerful we thought those dangers were.

 

3. BE FLEXIBLE

The adaptable animal survives. If you get tired, ship your paddle and rest. If you get hungry, put in on the beach and eat a few oysters. If you can’t figure out one way to make it, do something new. When the wind confronts you, sometimes you’re supposed to go the other way.

 

4. THE GIFT OF EACH ENRICHES ALL

Every story is important. The bow, the stern, the skipper, the power puller in the middle – everyone is part of the movement. The elder sits in her cedar at the front, singing her paddle song, praying for us all. The weary paddler resting is still ballast. And there is always that time when the crew needs some joke, some remark, some silence to keep going, and the least likely person provides.

 

5. WE ALL PULL AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER

Nothing occurs in isolation. When we aren’t in the family of a canoe, we are not ready for whatever comes. The family can argue, mock, ignore each other at its worst, but that family will never let itself sink. A canoe that lets itself sink is certainly wiser never to leave the beach. When we know that we are not alone in our actions, we also know we are lifted up by everyone else.

 

6. A HUNGRY PERSON HAS NO CHARITY

Always nourish yourself. The bitter person, thinking that sacrifice means self-destruction, shares mostly anger. A paddler who doesn’t eat at the feasts doesn’t have enough strength to paddle in the morning. Take that sandwich they throw at you at 2 a.m.! The gift of who you are only enters the world when you are strong enough to own it.

 

7. EXPERIENCES ARE NOT ENHANCED THROUGH CRITICISM

Who we are, how we are, what we do, why we continue, flourish with tolerance. The canoe fellows who are grim go one way. The men and women who find the lightest flow may sometimes go slow, but when they arrive they can still sing. And they have gone all over the sea, into the air with the seagulls, under the curve of the wave with the dolphin and down to the whispering shells, under the continental shelf. Withdrawing the blame acknowledges how wonderful a part if it all every one of us really is.

 

8. THE JOURNEY IS WHAT WE ENJOY

Although the start is exciting and the conclusion gratefully achieved, it is the long, steady process we remember. Being part of the journey requires great preparation; being done with a journey requires great awareness; being on the journey, we are much more than ourselves. We are part of the movement of life. We have a destination, and for once our will is pure, our goal is to go on.

 

9. A GOOD TEACHER ALLOWS THE STUDENT TO LEARN

We can berate each other, try to force each other to understand, or we can allow each paddler to gain awareness through the ongoing journey. Nothing sustains us like that sense of potential that we can deal with things. Each paddler learns to deal with the person in front, the person behind, the water, the air, the energy; the blessing of the eagle.

 

10. WHEN GIVEN ANY CHOICE AT ALL, BE A WORKER BEE – MAKE HONEY!

 

The Ten Rules of the Canoe were developed by the Quileute Canoe contingent for a Northwest Experimental Education Conference in 1990.

 

P.S. Never, NEVER call CANOE a “boat.” Them’s splashin’ words, friend. You might get thrown in the water, or get to dance, to clear the score.

Using Art for Healing and Health Awareness: 3 Projects Focused On Diabetes

Each person handles the news of health concerns and disease differently. Art projects often help raise awareness of the health concerns brought by a specific diagnosis while serving as a comforting form of therapy and healing for current patients. Learning how to cope and live with diabetes can be staggeringly hard. Many in our Indigenous family live with the symptoms and resulting fragilities brought by this blood sugar monster already. Here are three Indigenous responses to diabetes through art worth sharing.

 

1. Blood Sugar Canto

Ire’ne Lara Silva’s new poetry collection is centered on her diagnosis as an insulin-dependent diabetic. Blood Sugar Canto tackles the heaviest of topics: ailing health, the trauma of a long family history of diabetes, constant physical pain, the fear that comes with medical emergencies, callus medical professionals and multiple misdiagnoses and the transformative re-negotiation of self we all must confront in the face of life-changing health information. Poems such as “ode to the syringe,” “tequilita” and “the diabetic lover” exemplify how all aspects of life change unexpectedly when living with disease. From not knowing our last shot of tequila for the night is going to be the final shot we ever get to take to changing the choices we have for expressing our sexual desires – everything shines in a different light once a dramatic life change occurs. As illustrated by the piece “poem to frida, patron saint of art and pain,” health battles bring even our favorite artists new meaning. Poems such as “en trozos/in pieces,” “we don’t give morphine for heartburn” and “one sided conversation with my mother” delve into the author’s sensory rich memories of family member’s health battles with obvious love, anger and reverence. With several pieces that hold the qualities of both elegy and canto, the elegant tonal shifts, ferocious beauty and unwavering clarity shown in the poems cannot be overstated. The fifth section entitled “let my last breath be song” ends the collection cleverly with a gathering of uplifting love songs to elements of the natural world and the human body explaining in its first poem “the world is medicine / let / it in.” A potentially powerful tool for health advocacy in Xicana and Indigenous communities, Blood Sugar Canto reminds us that curandera poets practice healing in every endeavor.
 

2.  Awakening the Spirit

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ recent project with the American Diabetes Association of Greater San Diego is a short documentary called Awakening the Spirit. This film interviews some of the Indigenous people who have found regimes that work against diabetes. People with different stages of the diabetes or doing preventative practices are highlighted in their cultural practices, exercise regimes and daily lives. From traditional dance to MMA training, the video highlights some of the many ways to awaken your body and focus on your health.   

3.  The Sugar Project: Modern Navajo Monster

Chantell Trista Yazzie was looking for a powerful way to respond to the dangerously high rates of diabetes and obesity among the younger generations of Navajo. She soon decided to use granulated sugar, glass, visual art and poetry to produce a multimedia installation she titled, “The Sugar Project: Modern Day Navajo Monster.” A video version of the installation paired with music is online to make the work available to a larger audience. The haunting images of a tribal man and woman made of sugar are drawn with the sugar, their backs to each other. Both figures sport x’s in place of their eyes and mouths, as if they are already dead. Outside the glass surrounding the sugar profiles are images of traditional practices surrounding a baby that is placed in the center of the work. “Our identities are going away and we have to fix ourselves before (it gets) to the little ones,” she explained.

 

Buck vs. Bell—Eugenics Fun, WTF America

Back in 1927, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had authority to sterilize anyone deemed unfit, including the intellectually disabled “for the protection and health of the state.” Seen as an endorsement of removing defective stock from the human gene pool, health professionals, legal authorities and groups across the country began wiping out the chances for “unseemly” people to procreate behind the shield of the greater good.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. described Carrie Buck as a “probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring.” The Court accepted, without evidence, that Carrie and her mother were promiscuous and that therefore, the three generations of Bucks shared the genetic trait of feeblemindedness. Stop and read that again. Let it sink in. The Supreme Court decided – without evidence – that three generations of a family were feebleminded because they were told Carrie and her mother had casual sex. Not only that, but that it was in the country’s best interest to keep people like Carrie and her mother from having children of their own regardless of what those women wanted to say on the matter.  

Jump five decades ahead. It is reported that poor women from various minority groups – Natives, Latinos, Puerto Ricans and African Americans – are being sterilized without consent. Due to questions from reporters and health officials, a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office finds that four of the 12 Indian Health Service regions sterilized 3,406 American Indian women without their permission between 1973 and 1976. The GAO finds that 36 women under age 21 had been forcibly sterilized during this period despite a court-ordered moratorium on sterilizations of women younger than 21. Two years earlier, an independent study by Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri, Choctaw/Cherokee, found that one in four American Indian women had been sterilized without her consent. Pinkerton-Uri’s research indicated that the Indian Health Service had “singled out full-blooded Indian women for sterilization procedures.”

Thank you IHS for scarring our Native population for generations. How many potential tribal members did we lose? How much did our generation of Indigenous hearts shrink? How many tribal members did you frighten away from modern medicine completely? How much money did you save?

Most eugenics studies/practices had been suspended after WWII thanks to the Nazi regime. Nothing like seeing barbaric practices of another colonizer and genocidal maniac to leave a bad taste in your mouth, right America? Apparently, the taste is not bad enough to rethink another bite. Sterilization practices continued in federal and state institutions, though the outrage from reported stories forced change in policy for many offices.  

2013 showed forced sterilization in the news, this time in women prison populations. Again, studies show a high number of coerced or forced sterilizations in a population group with little power to retaliate. Almost a full century since Carrie Buck had been silenced and sterilized against her wishes.

The PBS documentary “No Más Bebés” follows the story of US activists against reproductive injustice in the 1970s. Check it out to learn more. In the meantime, remember that Buck vs. Bell is still not overturned. With the war against reproductive rights at such a fevered pitch, is it any surprise?