It's a searing indictment of the United States' policies toward American Indian people, and the consequences of colonialism upon the bodies of Native people - particularly women; particularly in terms of the systemic and personal violence they withstand.
eta:Conquest starts with the observation that sexual and reproductive violence against Native women are forms of racial and colonial violence, unpacking the various ways in which sexual violence "serves the goals of colonialism," an examination that Smith argues "forces us to reconsider how we define sexual violence, as well as the strategies we employ to eradicate gender violence." In her analysis, environmental racism and exploitation, forced assimilation/cultural genocide, spiritual appropriation, medical discrimination, and colonialism/empire are all connected to sexual and reprodutive violence against Native people. - Smith also explores the impact of environmental racism and exploitation on reproductive and family health in Native communities (women of color are suffering not only from environmental racism but environmental sexism - p. Smith shows how both colonizing cultures and mainstream social justice movements rely on historical and cultural narrative that requires Native people to "play dead." That is, we systematically pretend that Native Americans are long gone, absent, or vanishing. Indigenous people are either living relics or imagined symbols of a mythical past, which we can then ignore or appropriate the memory of as convenient ("Kate Shanley notes that Native peoples are a permanent present absence in the U.S. colonial imagination, an absence that reinforces at every turn the conviction that Native peoples are indeed vanishing and that the conquest of Native lands is justified.") This tendency to treat Native communities as "dead" is evident in modern social justice movements, for example, in how mainstream environmentalism doesnt center Native communities or even form pro-environment alliances with them, instead allying with groups that often have racist, classist, and anti-immigrant agendas (dedicated to reducing population growth of all peoples in theory and of people of color in reality - 78). The major example Smith gives of how mainstream activism expects Native women in particular to play dead is the failure of both anti-racists/indigenous activists and advocates against domestic violence to center Native women in their work. For Native women, Smith argues, these approaches are actively harmful in a culture where Native women, other women of color, and people of color in general are disproportionately and often unjustly incarcerated, and in a culture where state violence (police brutality, racism and sexism in the prison system, etc) are a major cause of and contributor to gender violence in Native communities. Instead, Smith calls for domestic violence prevention and survivor support strategies that are based in community accountability and redressing economic injustices that make women of color more vulnerable to abuse and less able to leave abusive homes or partners.
(33) Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith looks at the effects and the effectiveness of colonization of the indigenous people. It concentrates primarily on the violence committed against women and children, as they remain most vulnerable members of the community, but Smith also addresses the overarching concern of contemporary genocide of the Native communities. The last quarter of the book also brings up the topic of violence within miniority communities and how women of color are often asked to tolerate domestic violence to present a unified front against the white oppressor. While I agree with Smith that racism and sexism are conjoined like grape vines, often violence against women of color is undercut and ignored by the mainstream advocates that only enforces the racial prejudice of our society. A small section which looked at the struggle for reparations points out that African Americans asking for monetary reparations are ignoring the fact that this will only cut into more indigenous land. Its not a reason to pass on this book entirely, but be aware that this might hinder the readers ability to be up-to-date on the events discussed. Another reason this book isnt always such an excellent read is because the writing style and form is quite weak.
Violence against Native American women and women of color is a marginalized issue, as is the topic of how colonialist/genocidal policies get internalized in corporate and state decision-making.
DISCLAIMER: Andrea Lee Smith is a fraud. She twists police reports to fit her narrative, in one case writing that a Native woman was shot to death by police after calling about being domestically abused. The fact that this woman is a racial fraud and criticizes women who are ACTUALLY some percentage Cherokee, as well as dedicates an entire chapter to white appropriation of Native traditions, is beyond hypocritical.
After reading it, it feels like a central piece that was once missing in history's great puzzle is finally in place.
The strength of this book is probably as a summary of (semi) current issues and activist approaches to problems facing indigenous women and their communities. Still, a lot of the good work summarized in this book is based on the work and thoughts of smart Native scholars and women of color activists--and a lot of it is worth thinking about and enacting.
According to its website, the BSHP "seeks to document Native boarding school abuses so that Native communities can begin healing from boarding school abuses and demand justice." Smith has worked with Amnesty International as a Bunche Fellow, coordinating the research project on sexual violence and American Indian women. This decision has attracted "an unusual degree of attention from scholars, both at Ann Arbor and nationally" and "prompted some to wage an online campaign saying the University's tenure evaluation process discriminates against women of color and interdisciplinary professors." A statement issued by an anonymous group of students and faculty from the University of Michigan protesting the decision immediately began circulating via email and among feminist blogs. The statement refers to Smith as "one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time" and highlights Smith's relevance as both a scholar and social justice advocate, noting that as "a result of her work, scholars, social service providers, and community-based organizations throughout the United States have shifted from state-focused efforts to more systemic approaches for addressing violence against women." A Facebook group in support of Smith's tenure bid and online petition to University of Michigan provost Teresa Sullivan soon followed.