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Indigenous Women’s Advocacy Conference links tribal sovereignty and women’s sovereignty

By Grace Terry Native Sun News Today Correspondent

Tribal sovereignty and women’s sovereignty are tied together, according to presenters at a recent conference sponsored by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), held January 24 – 26 in Albuquerque, NM. Both tribal sovereignty and women’s sovereignty share issues of safety, poverty, housing, geography, lack of resources, politics, and jurisdiction, according to Brenda Hill (Siksika), the NIWRC Director of Technical Assistance & Training. The theme of the conference, was “Strengthening the Role of Advocacy in Indian Country.”

During the conference, presenters emphasized that battering requires collusion by many individuals, groups, and communities. Presenters noted that effective advocacy to diminish battering goes beyond reactive responses to pro-active social and cultural change to end violence.

“Battering is created and sustained by society,” said Hill. “Therefore advocacy for battered women and children must go outside of shelter doors creating institutional, policy, and legislative change, coordinated community responses and other forms of social justice.”

In discussions of battered relatives, we often hear the questions, “Why do victims/survivors of battering stay in abusive relations? Why do they go back?” At the January advocacy conference, Hill up ended and refocused those questions. She said, “The more appropriate question is, ‘Why does the abuser continue to go back? How do abusers get to repeatedly be violent? Why haven’t they been stopped? Why does the abuser choose violence against their partner? Do we question victim’s choices because society has failed to hold the abuser accountable?’”

Multiple barriers keep victims trapped in intimate partner violence and enable the offender to continue the battering, which is defined as an institutionalized system of over-lapping continuous violent tactics used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Among those barriers is the fear of another beating or of being murdered. Statistics show the most dangerous time for a survivor/victim is when she leaves the abusive partner and there is a 75 percent increase of violence upon separation for at least two years.

Effective advocates for battered relatives prioritize safety and accountability, including safety at home and within agencies, institutions, and communities. Safety includes protecting survivors’ integrity and their rights to decision-making and privacy. Accountability includes the offender, those that colluded with him/her, and the agencies and institutions responsible for stopping violence and providing safety.

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. The NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty. The NIWRC website ( offers a wealth of resources.

The staff and board of directors of NIWRC consist of Native women from throughout the United States with extensive experience and commitment to ending violence against Native women and their children. NIWRC’s staff bring decades of expertise in building the grassroots movement to increase and improve tribal responses to domestic violence and increase safety for Native women.

NIWRC frequently offers on-line training opportunities without cost to participants. Those subscribed to the NIWRC mailing list at receive advance notice of these and other events.

On March 15, 2023, at 1:00 PM MT, NIWRC presents an on-line webinar titled “Indigenous Leadership to End Violence from a Woman’s Perspective.” Presenters will discuss how all Indigenous women have the perspective to become agents of change in working to strengthen sovereignty, end gender-based violence, and revitalize and sustain culture for our Indigenous futures. Register at

A webinar titled “Knowledge Keeper Prophecies: Teachings and Storytelling to Guide Values-Based Responses to Crisis and Disasters” will be offered Friday, March 17, 2023, from 12 – 2pm MT. Participants will hear from valued Knowledge Keepers of 3 different Tribal Nations on prophecies, teachings, and stories that support their communities in taking effective action during current challenges. The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have called upon tribal leaders to turn to original teachings to protect Native people and lands. Register at

NIWRC’S “Women Are Sacred (WAS) Conference” is scheduled for Monday, June 26 – Wednesday, June 28,2023, in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Isleta Resort and Casino. The WAS Conference is one of the oldest and largest gatherings of advocates, survivors, Tribal domestic and sexual violence programs, Tribal community members, Tribal leadership, law enforcement, and Tribal court personnel dedicated to ending violence against Native American women and children. The conference theme is “We Are Born from Her: Protecting Earth Mother, Her Women, and Her Children.”



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