Raping Indian Country

Warner, Elizabeth Ann Kronk; Deer, Sarah

This article examines issues going to the heart of tribal self-determination— extractive industries operating within and near Indian country and how they are impacting tribal communities through climate change and the safety of Native people, especially women and children. Given the importance of the topic, the title of this article is deliberately provoking. Using “rape” as a metaphor for any other human experience is mired in controversy. Some activists within the anti-rape movement have raised significant concerns that the use of the language of “rape” outside the context of criminal law only serves to minimize the experience of individual sexual assault victims. While we are sympathetic to this perspective, we also strongly believe that an expansive definition of the term “rape” can and should be understood to mean a serious harm to both the climate and Indian nations, and what will happen to tribal cultures and the lands that have been exploited. Thus, in this Article, we deliberately deploy the language of “rape”—despite its controversy—to tell the legal story of how violence against Native women is directly linked to the fossil fuel industry and, by extension, climate change.

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Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

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July 20, 2020