Date of this Version
Published in Great Plains Research 20.1 (Spring 2010): 146-47.
Anyone familiar with Indian Country and the endemic racism and discrimination—on and off the reservations—that persist for Native Americans in the United States might assume that hate crimes perpetuated against this population are not only common but also well documented. As Barbara Perry provocatively establishes, only the former is true: Native Americans are subjected routinely to ethnoviolence, yet they rarely report these transgressions. In fact, according to Perry, Native Americans reported only 83 incidences of hate crimes in 2004 (< 1% of all reported hate crimes that year).
Perry explores several explanations for this apparent anomaly, including traditional Native cultural values of nonconfrontation. Her thesis, however, focuses primarily on the legacy of colonialism. She notes that racism and ethnoviolence against Native Americans are a constant and have become “normative” as a means of establishing and maintaining the dominant society’s social, economic, political, and geographical boundaries that isolate, segregate, and marginalize Native peoples. Moreover, the intergenerational colonial experiences of Native Americans have fostered profound distrust of both law enforcement and the justice system (as the visible representatives of the oppressors). Viewed in this context, Perry’s explanatory model is plausible and timely.