Newsletter 13 - The Forced Sterilization of Native American Women

Hi friends, Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror author Paul James Keyes here with another newsletter!

Last time I talked a little bit about CRISPR and genetic engineering, [LINK TO NEWSLETTER 12 - CRISPR, NO IT'S NOT A BREAKFAST CEREAL], today I want to talk about a very serious topic and a statistic I learned recently that made my jaw drop. The subject: the forced sterilization of Native American women.

I know, not exactly cheery, but a lot of things that are important aren’t fun. My wife is Native American and she recently shared with me an article about some truly reprehensible practices of the USA in the 1960’s and 70’s. The Indian Health Services sterilized 25% of native women of childbearing age in a span of six years. Read that again: An entire 1/4 of the population was forcibly sterilized, and somehow most people today don’t even realize it happened. The government did this against the women’s knowledge and consent. They claimed to do this to reduce the number of welfare recipients, as if that makes what they did any better.

A personal aside, when my wife was instructed to go to the Indian Health Services for her first COVID shot a couple of years ago, I felt strangely anxious about her being sent somewhere different from where I was being told to go. I’m not usually one to believe conspiracy theories, at least not without ample evidence, but what happened in the 60’s and 70’s can’t be described as anything less than conspiratorial.

With the fall of the eugenics movement after World War 2, the people who wanted to eradicate what they determined to be bad genes (read: kill all future minorities) did so by incentivizing doctors and hospitals to perform sterilizations on indigenous and other minority women. The government would pay for the procedures to be done, so various facilities, under the guise of providing other healthcare, would perform hysterectomies or tie the tubes of women that were undergoing unrelated surgeries. They usually wouldn’t even tell the women they did it afterwards. This is still going on to women in prisons today. People don’t have as many rights when they are imprisoned.

It’s pure evil. Any time the government incentivizes a healthcare practice, someone out there is making money off of doing it regardless of ethics or necessity. I’m not saying that big Pharma is making billions off of pushing the flu shot on young and otherwise healthy individuals—since the flu can be really bad some years and getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent serious illness, and not passing the flu along to the elderly is the best way to avoid accidentally killing your ailing grandparents—but its really quite a shame that governments historically can’t be trusted to have your best interests at heart.

The US government wanted less Native American’s protesting and causing a strain on the welfare system. Forcing them from their lands and onto reservations that are often 3rd-world ghettos without running water, garbage collection, or pretty much any other adequate services, wasn’t enough. Don’t even get me started on the disproportionate number of missing and murdered indigenous women all across North America. They are preyed upon, mostly by white men, who rape/traffic/kill them because they know they can easily get away with it. The whole system was built to allow this to happen and is complicit in the results—from inadequate policing and investigations, to the complicated jurisdictional mess that is tribal vs local vs federal police.

If you haven’t seen Wind River, it’s a really good movie staring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner—you know, the Avenger with a bow—that brings a little awareness to some of the terrible things happening to native women. Too bad the two main leads aren’t native Americans, but at least the story got told. So often, native struggles are simply forgotten.

Next time your privilege makes you think that everybody has an even shot at success in the good ol’ US of A, just remember how the government intentionally wiped out the offspring producing capability of a quarter of childbearing aged native women. It makes you wonder what other poignant tidbits aren’t usually taught in schools.

Until next time, recognize the struggles of others, and stay safe out there!

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