The statistics are staggering:
- Native children represent 1.6% of child abuse and neglect cases in the U.S., but they only represent 1% of the population, twice the national average. (But these are only the cases that are reported and elevate to a criminal case. The numbers are likely higher.)
- Native children experience post-traumatic stress disorder at roughly the same rate as service members returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
- 1 in 3 Native women will be sexually assaulted in her life, twice the national average. (Again, that only includes assaults that are reported. The numbers are likely much higher.)
- Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death for Native women.
“Child maltreatment was rarely a problem [before colonialism],” said Kastelic, a member of the native village of Ouzinkie in Alaska, “because of traditional beliefs and a natural safety net.” (Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post)
Unfortunately, the attempt to destroy their culture, particularly through the Indian boarding schools, broke families and create a legacy of trauma that is passed from one generation to the next.
Lutheran Indian Ministries creates safe places where Native individuals can start on a journey of healing and break the cycle of abuse. When these men, women, and children feel truly seen and truly heard, they can finally feel truly loved, and they can finally understand that God loves them too much to leave them where they are. That’s when real change can happen, and that’s when we start to see the amazing power of our great God through the hands of ordinary people.
As you enjoy your Christmas festivities, please keep Native American and Alaska Native children and families in your prayers and consider donating to a local domestic violence shelter, trauma counseling center, or child mentoring program, or find a Native-focused organization to support.
Looking for other places to give to help Native communities? Try searching Guidestar for local organizations.