With so much attention finally bringing light to the missing and murdered Native American women, State Sen. Susan Webber is stepping up and speaking about the issues at hand.
When asked why she chose to be involved in in sponsoring Hanna’s Act, Webber said, “I am a Native American woman.” As a woman from the Blackfeet tribe, Webber is passionate about these bills that are trying to be passed.
Webber noted, “This is a problem that’s been going on a long time.” She feels that stereotypes makes people not care. Native women aren’t looked at as humans.”
Webber said that she feels that the biggest problem is the stereotyping of Native women. “There are three stereotypes of Native women. First is that they’re prostitutes and that they are loose,” Webber said.
Webber feels that a large part of the problem is due to racism. “If a Native woman comes up missing, it doesn’t matter to police,” Webber said. “Indian Country as a whole makes up about 5 percent of the nation,” she added.
Webber said the second stereotype that she feels is placed on Native women is that they are the beast of burden. She feels Native women were never paid attention to and people didn’t ever try to see things from their point of view.
“Wives of fur traders would stay home and take care of the house and the kids while their husbands were out,” Webber said.
The third stereotype that Webber feels is an issue is that people think of them as noble princesses. “Our tribe doesn’t have princesses or queens,” Webber said. “It’s the Pocahontas syndrome.”
She went on to tell the story of a woman from her tribe that went missing when she was younger. “She was poor, but if you needed something she would give you the shirt of her back. She would feed people and take care of her children,” explained Webber.
The woman that Webber was talking about was missing for 30 years before she was found. When they did find her, she was in a shack on an isolated part of the reservation. “It’s just sad,” Webber said.
“A big problem is the jurisdiction issue. Who should be investigating. There is a big lack of communication here,” Webber said.
She went on to note that she herself has even been in a tough situation. “I remember one time I got a flat tire and I was hoping that no one would stop. It’s just not safe being a Native woman. That’s scary,” Webber said.
The bill, Hanna’s act would authorize the state Department of Justice to assist with all missing persons cases. It would also fund a new position at the department for a missing persons specialist. Hanna’s act is named after Hanna Harris, a women who was missing for several days. She was found murdered near the rodeo grounds on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.