The Muscogee (Creek) professor"s
efforts in advancing justice for Native women receive recognition
from the MacArthur
scholar and women's rights advocate Sarah Deer, Muscogee (Creek),
is a winner this year of a MacArthur Foundation 'genius'grant for
her work in addressing high violence rates against Native American
women. But it's work the recent winner of the $625,000 award says
Deer, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in
St. Paul, Minnesota, was announced in September as one of 21 recipients
of the grant, which recognizes contributions to society made by
artists, scientists, educators, scholars innovators and many others.
"Deer's efforts were instrumental in the passage of two landmark
pieces of legislation," the foundation said in announcing her as
one of the fellows. Those pieces of federal legislation include
the Tribal Law and Order Act signed into law in 2010 and the reauthorization
of the Violence Against Women Act passed last year.
Both acts increased the power of tribal courts in sentencing
non-Native Americans for violent crimes on reservations, but still
do not give tribes authority equal to states or the U.S. "Native
women experience the highest rate of violent victimization in the
United States," says Deer. "And one of the reasons that the rate
is so high is because the legal system as its structured today does
not protect Native American women.
"Tribal governments have had their power, their authority, restricted
by the federal government. They're restricted in terms of the kinds
of sentences they impose, and they're restricted in who they can
prosecute; and what that does is it means tribes do not have the
same power as a state government would have, and when you don't
protect a particular group of people then predators and abusers
are attracted to that population."
Deer was an author of the Amnesty International report 'Maze
of Injustice'in 2007, highlighting the complicated framework of
a legal system that leaves Native American women more vulnerable
to violent crimes than other groups, and presented the difficult
statistic that more than one in three American Indian and Alaska
Native women will be raped in their lifetime. The report is credited
with expanding the discussion surrounding violence on tribal lands
and the shortfalls of the legal system in protecting Native Americans.
Deer's grant recognizes her past work and is an investment in
her future efforts. She can spend as is she wishesthere are
no strings attached. Click
here to read Deer's interview via the blog "She The People"