Sexual violence in Boarding Schools

Here at the Navajo Human Rights Commission public hearing on Navajo gender violence and Violence against Navajo women and LGBTQs at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz. The hearing is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NHR COMMISSION STEVE DARDEN
Share story, two years ago as having ceremony for son, sheriff came to home and demanded me to put our sacred fire. We had a four hour standoff until resolved. And both the sheriff and deputy had their hands on their guns. At end, sheriff apologized but we were very upset cuz the sheriff explained that he and his deputy had their hands on their guns because of the recent fatal shooting of a police officer who had responded to a domestic violence call. I told the sheriff that there was no comparison.

I urge our Navajo women to continue to work on making domestic violence a top priority of the Navajo police.

RON KINSEL
I am 61 years old and I’m going to share an experience that I have not shared before. I went to Albuquerque Indian Boarding School where I was attacked in the middle of the night. I was raped and it continued throughout the years. I would dread the weekends until I made friends with other students who would allow me to go with them on weekends. At that time, sexual assaults were not reported. I was alone. And I’ve been called so many derogatory names because they acknowledge me that way and rumors spread that “I was like that” and recently I was called a Home Girl. And even going to men’s restroom, men tell me this is restroom for men. I’ve been dragged around by my hair, nose broken, fractured knees – all because someone wanted to take advantage of me. And some of these individuals were close relatives. And I recently heard about testimony regarding police department and I’ve had experience three times. I reported relatives attacking me with rock and throwing me down. Another time, relative, who was tall and big, beating his significant other and I heard her screaming so I tried stopping him. He tossed me around like rag doll. And soon after the loss of my mother, my relative was in my home burning food and so I told him that he needed to go home. As I left, he pushed me down stairs outside and I was knocked out. But he kicked me repeatedly and my father had to rescue me. He also told me that he would kill me and bury my body where no one could find me. I’ve had doctors write about all my medical treatment, including detached retina, broken nose. And months have gone by and I have not gone to court and my attackers are free. “I didn’t choose to be the way I am.”

NHR COMMISSIONER DR. DENETDALE
Thank you Ron for sharing your story and for being a community organizer.

RON KINSEL
Ever since child, my mother had me do a lot of indoor work and watching siblings. So I did lot of things that my sisters did – always babysitting, always watching kids. But then again it moved me to get diploma in the education of special education kids. Whether pple think I’m normal or not, I don’t think of myself as abnormal. But what happened to me at boarding school prevented me from having girlfriend, getting married and having kids. And pple ask me why I don’t have kids. I’m married to my job and work and now I’m raising my relatives kids. “For one thing, I don’t need to answer to nobody. I can pick up and go.”

NHR COMMISSIONER DENETDALE
Not sure if we have received testimony about sexual assaults of students at Boarding School. Tim Giago, a Lakota publisher, wrote in his book about violence and rapes in boarding schools. During his presentation on his book, an elderly man stood up and said that as men, they do not talk about such violence. So I thank you for your courage to speak up and if we don’t speak up, we can’t address these issues. There is sexual violence at tribal colleges but as long as we don’t receive testimony we cannot address.

NHR COMMISSIONER STEVE DARDEN
I appreciate your courage for stepping out in this environment. I use word courage because I pressed staff to bring to NHRC an incident in Flagstaff. There was a young Navajo man who not LGBTQ and yet he was raped. What happened to him so negatively caused him to attempt suicide. He was found bound, gagged and naked. He was taken to Coconino County Sheriff Office and then Flagstaff Guidance Center where professionals told that he was under suicide watch. Based on newspaper account, he was given to Center for suicide watch but the next morning he was found hanging. It appears that he took his life because of what happened to him. And director of center forced to resign and we don’t know why. She was quoted that she was never part of any suicide. Befuddles me how such a center allows first suicide and that it was a Navajo and now that woman is CEO of Indian Center in Flagstaff that has suicide prevention program. So that is why Mr. Kinsel, I use the word courage and it gives me a little more impetus to trust staff to dig up necessary info to get justice for this young man. I don’t know him but it was painful. And for you Mr. Kinsel to be attacked by your own relatives is uncalled for and against Navajo tradition.

NHR COMMISSIONER DENETDALE
Healing cannot happen until change structures of violence. WE have to change these structures of injustice and violence. And I say that because I often hear people to heal themselves.

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