Human Rights and VAWA

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on December 10, 1948. Annually we celebrate this important ‘Human Rights Day’. 

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...]
Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." 
Eleanor Roosevelt 

When we look at our country, it’s all too clear that our Native American and Alaska Native sisters and brothers continue to suffer the violation of their dignity in numerous ways. Across the USA, 1 in 3 Native Americans are living in poverty. Data from the CDC shows COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Native American/Alaska Native populations. 

  • The average per capita income on the Navajo Reservation is $6,217
  • 56% of Navajos on the Reservation live below the Poverty Level. 
  • 43% of labor force on the Reservation is unemployed.

Since colonization, Native American women have suffered disproportionately high rates of violence, according to the recent documentary from the BBC, Missing and Murdered: America's forgotten native girls. Go to:

In the face of these multiple human rights crises against our Native sisters and brothers we must act. First, recognize the great human potential of each individual and offer those in need a hand - not a handout. Purchase gifts from the Southwest Indian Foundation and support their projects ( 

“Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor,
that we may heal the earth and heal each other.”
Ojibway prayer for healing 

Charity, however, will not itself fix the crises facing the Native American communities. Paired with charity must be work for justice. Federal policies must address the various human rights needs, including the epidemic of violence against Native women. Most of these violent acts involve non-Native Americans, and directly contribute to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Because 96% of the perpetrators of sexual violence against women and girls in Indian Country are non-Native, expanding tribal jurisdiction over non-Native assailants is necessary for seeking justice for survivors and victims. The House of Representatives has passed a bill to reauthorize VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) with strong tribal provisions and the Senate needs to do the same. Tell your senators to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with strong tribal provisions, restoring tribal jurisdiction over crimes against women and girls. (

Jean Schafer

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