A Nation Divided


So I was doing more research for Bone Deep last night. It so happens that one of the characters that showed up to this particular party was a Native (American) and there is a skinwalker. Since I'm fairly sure I got plenty wrong about this legend, and I've already decided to take this small delay in releasing the book, I decided I probably ought to do one last research run.

I really don't know how I missed this horror the first time. Or how it's possible that, with so many Americans crying out to protect the downtrodden, this isn't daily news. It turns out our country has a darker underbelly than even I guessed. And I bet you don't know about it either.

Being a Native - you know, as in, the actual, indigenous people of America - basically means you're part of a third world nation that exists within one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Let that sink in. Because I want everyone to understand something. These are people so poor that they can't even afford to stand up for themselves. On average, they make less than 4000 dollars per year per household. There aren't even enough of them to make an impact in voting and, since they are so poor, no white politician is going to just stand up and help them. And I suspect our government, never high on my list of good guys, would like it to stay that way. But. I'm not jumping up and down on that right this instant. There happens to be an even more horrifying problem festering within this oozing sore of ugliness (here, have a tiny portion of the country we took from you... wait. Actually, we want that too.  And you don't need houses. And we don't like your culture, either...).

I've known for a very long time we live in a rape culture. I grew up knowing that I must avoid certain places and be afraid if I saw a group of drunk men approach on a darkened street. I've always known that rape carries less consequence than robbery. Like, yeah, take my daughter and do what you want to her, leave her with PTSD for life, but don't steal from the bank if you ever want to see sunlight again. It only sounds unbalanced when you really think about it, right?

I, like too many others, have been assaulted. I, like too many others, have heard the suggestion that it is my job to stop assault rather than a man's job to just control himself (and why that veiled suggestion that men are incapable of intelligent decisions and self control doesn't infuriate them, I don't know). As a girl, you either grow up with this knowledge or learn it the hard way. And it is so common, it rarely even makes the news and universities work hard to make sure it gets covered up. Better to cover up the violence than actually prevent it, right? My own assault inspired me to learn martial arts, to learn constant vigilance, own big dogs, shoot first and ask later, and basically make sure every male in a hundred mile radius know that I will put them in the ground if they even look like they might try to hurt me. Prison scares me way less than being hurt like that again.

But what do you do when you're a thirteen year old kid that can't fight? What do you do when your culture is over sexualized, your people minimized, and nobody wants to remember you exist? One in every three Native women and girls will be the victim of sexual assault at some point, most of them before they are even legal to drive. WTF??? A lot of these girls vanish without a trace, as well. It is so bad that a Native parent is actually taught what to say when their daughter is raped. When. Not if. And the true shame? Over 90% of these assaults are committed by non-native people on Native lands. So, you know all that raping and murdering you (if you're like me) thought we'd stopped inflicting upon these people before the car even came along? Yeah, turns out it is still happening. Every. Single. Day.

I want you to think about that for a second. These people are generally decent folk who have been the victim of genocide. They have been sent to schools to whitewash them of their culture. Their land was stolen, their people slaughtered, and, supposedly, the US government gave them the reservations as payment (here, have some of the land we took and don't have any use for to pay for the wholesale murder of your race... what a wonderful gift). Only, they didn't really give it, did they? Anytime we want to run a pipeline, guess whose water we're going to contaminate. Or, god forbid, we find anything of worth there. Then some bullshit reason - I feel cussing is appropriate here - is invented to get them off the land. Or maybe the president just signs it away because who needs a reason when you think you're god?

If you're like me, you thought this particular nightmare was over and firmly in the history books. After all. Aren't we one of the greatest nations on earth, at the forefront on human and animal rights, desperate to save everyone that needs saving? Don't we throw billions at other countries to help them? Don't we give our ten cents a day so the Ethiopian children don't have to starve? So we'd definitely know if bad stuff like that was happening in our own country, right? RIGHT??  Why wouldn't we take care of our own people as well, particularly the ones that were damn near wiped out by the coming of the white people so that we can have our Starbucks and McDonalds? And in a country where we know who every celebrity is cheating on their spouse with, isn't it a bit odd that we DON'T hear about this?

When's the last time you heard about a Native American being treated as though they were trash or that their children were starving? When's the last time you heard about them getting cast down? When was the last national television breaking news event where everyone prayed we'd find that Native American child alive and unharmed? When's the last time you even heard that this epidemic of violence and hatred was happening? Never? Yeah, same here. Well. Turns out it is happening. We just aren't being told.

If you know me, you know there are a few things that really turn me into a dragon. Most days, my rage is firmly under control - and I've got a lot of rage. But this. This is unacceptable. I should not be more informed on sexual violence in Africa or India than what is happening in my own backyard. The people of this country - ALL the people - ought to matter enough to be kept safe. So, yeah, I'm a little furious. In a face melting, rapist stabbing, burying bodies in the woods sort of way.

Obviously, one little redhead can't go marching off to protest and get noticed, no matter how much fire she breaths. But I can do other things. Because I'm a writer, damnit. And I'm mad. Never a good mix. For the other guy.

Those of you that have read Getting Thin know that the central point is a brutal sexual assault and murder. Bone Deep - without spoilers - has a very similar axis. So here's what's going to happen. As of its release date, June 1st, half the royalties will be going to a non profit organization dedicated to Native Americans that have been or are at risk of being sexually assaulted. It isn't enough, of course, but it's the best I can do for now. I will also be dedicating my weekly rant on Darkwood to getting this information seen and spreading awareness.

This country of ours has always had the potential for true greatness in my eyes. Part of what makes it great is the myriad of cultures that call it home. But what does it say about us that the original culture and people have been swept under the proverbial rug? So I'm putting all other charity on hold. This needs to be addressed. People need to know about it. The Reservations need more funding for police, better opportunities for education, and more exposure to keep them from falling through the cracks. And their voices need to be heard.

I may not be able to go screaming into television cameras. I'm not some huge celebrity that can use my popularity to get the message into the mainstream. But you can bet I'm going to use every weapon I DO have for this. So, first, I'm dedicating Bone Deep to help prevent these atrocities and care for the survivors. I'll post the name of the charity when I've done more research into the ones available. Once I can comfortably do so, all three books - yes, there is a third - will become full on charity books and every cent they make will go to charities that help provide safety to the Native people. Because everyone deserves safety. Because I am not okay with this happening to anyone. Because nobody else should be okay with it either. And the screams of these people for help should not go unheard and unanswered.