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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S
FAMILY/PARENTING
From Address to the
Feminist Family Values Forum
by Mililani Trask

One of the major issues that we addressed in our Declaration was the expansion of militarism. Militarism is a tool of oppression, a tool that is used against women, and there is a relationship that we see in the global arena with our indigenous eye, between militarism and rape and sexual slavery­the sexual trafficking of indigenous women. Military regimes have used rape as a mechanism to subvert indigenous cultures. Rape is not only a crime that occurs on the streets of the United States; rape is a vehicle of militarism. We must also understand and appreciate the relationship between militarism and the dramatic increase in AIDS and HIV, which is occurring globally in indigenous communities. This is because military forces, whether Americans in Okinawa or others elsewhere in the world, are usually males whose needs to satisfy their sexual drive are indiscriminate. We need to know how this impacts the spread of AIDS and HIV in our world communities. While many express concern about AIDS and HIV in the context of personal health and prevention, few seem to address with any integrity the relationship between militarism and the spread of AIDS globally. We must address this issue if we are going to stop the AIDS-HIV epidemic.

Because of these failures by the program of action issued by the United Nations, the Indigenous Women's global Declaration further set forth their own platform of demands. The first is to recognize and respect our right to self-determination as women; we are not just the mothers of children, we are also the mothers of nations. We need to enunciate our agenda by asserting our right to self-determination. Our rights are defined in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as follows:

"The right of self-determination is the right of all peoples, not just men, but all peoples, to determine our political status, and by virtue of this right, to structure our own political futures; to determine and define how we wish to develop our economies, how we wish to utilize our land, and how we wish to create economic programs in our community and structure health care programs. This is the right of self-determination. It is an international human right, and it is time that we enunciate our right as women in terms of international legal standards that for too long have only been applied to white males from the dominant society."

Secondly, we demanded that the nations of the world recognize and respect our right to our territories, lands, and natural resources, and our right for self-development, education and health, in ways that are culturally appropriate to our people. Because we are vitally concerned with developing community-based economic programs and addressing critical health needs, we acknowledge and understand, as women from indigenous societies, that these programs must be culturally appropriate. You cannot take health programs that have been developed in New York down to Haiti, impose them upon the community, then wonder why the programs fail. In order to address the health needs of the women from South Africa, or women from the Philippines, you must first acknowledge those cultures by putting the health program in the appropriate cultural context, if such programs are going to be effective.

The third area we examined was environmental toxicity, and the other side of that ugly little coin--environmental racism. A bad habit of the transnational and G-7 nations is consuming our resources, creating toxic byproducts, then bringing those toxic byproducts back to the lands of indigenous peoples.

The women of Hawaii have the highest rate of breast cancer in the world because in Hawaii, for years, there was toxic dumping of DDT, long after America outlawed the use of DDT on the continent. It was prohibited only in the continental United States. Why? To make sure that American companies would have open markets in Cuba, the Philippines, and Hawaii, to dump it on our lands. So DDT is in our water system. You might think that the highest rate of breast cancer would be somewhere else in the Third World, but it's not. It's in Hawaii. Toxic dumping, the mining of uranium, and other such demonic practices have a necessary consequence, and that is environmental racism. Where are toxic dumps and nuclear rods being stored? Why are they only on American Indian land, or in the communities of black people and Spanish-speaking Americans? There is a new term we need to learn: "environmental racism." It is one facet of racism.

A fourth area that we debated in Beijing had to do with our rights to cultural and intellectual property, and our rights to control the biological diversity of our territories. The Creator has given us a great blessing, the diversity of the earth, and the diversity of all of the life forms of the earth. This is our cultural heritage. All indigenous women know that we're placed here to be guardians of the sacred Earth, our mother. We are her daughters; that is our calling, that is our place. We know this from the time of our birth, and even before, in our mother's womb. We are indigenous. When we are born, that is when we are called American. Nationality is only a sign based on the geography of where we are born, but before that time, in our mother's womb, we are indigenous women.

 

 

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