Violence against Native women was the main subject of the event. Many of the speakers either made sure to acknowledge the victims of sexual violence, or told personal stories proving that this issue must be addressed. Indigenous women who are sexually assaulted are sometimes ‘disappeared’, and even when they are not, justice seems to be hard to come by as a result of their brown skin.
The speaker that drew my attention the most was a Native American women from British Colombia, Canada. I cannot recall her name, but she told of how this type of atrocity has personally touched her. Her niece was found murdered, and to her knowledge, the one responsible has not been brought to justice. This story brought about one of her main points, oil pipeline expansion, and ‘fracking’, requires bringing in a bunch of laborers who stay at temporary settlements called ‘man camps’. These ‘man camps’ brings an increase of criminal activity, especially sexual assaults.
The work required to increase oil production often infringes on Native American territory, bringing an outsider presence with it through these so called ‘man camps’. A female law enforcement officer, Grace Her Many Horses, before beginning work as an officer around one of these ‘man camps’ was specifically told of how sexual assaults become prevalent in the surrounding areas of these settlements. I have often seen the environmental argument against oil pipeline expansion and ‘fracking’ in particular, but I have never seen a widespread call-to-attention of the increased sexual assaults that occur as a result of increasing oil production. She tells of one particularly heinous act where, “We found a crying, naked, four year old girl running down one of the roads right outside of the Man Camp. She had been sexually assaulted”.
With this in mind, I am surprised that I have only been cognizant of the environmental argument against increasing oil production. This may be an indictment of my own obliviousness to the crimes against Native women that occur in North America, but this must also be an indictment of the media’s apathy towards criminal acts against Native Americans. If these type of ‘man camps’ are necessary in order to build up oil production infrastructure, then the responsible companies must also shell out the cash to increase the law enforcement presence because this problem is proven to be real, and must be dealt with or else the list of sexual assault victims, and disappeared peoples, will continue to increase with oil production.