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Why. Good evening. Tonight we will be discussing the concerns of American Indian women. With
me is Marie Sanchez. Marie is chief judge of the northern tribe. She is the mother of nine Maria's on the national board of research on the plutonium economy and the advisory board of now ask the Native American Solidarity Committee. She is also involved with the International Treaty Council. Also here is Dr. Condi Yuri. Dr. Yuri is a physician and is currently attending law school. She is a Choctaw Cherokee. She supported the struggle at both Wounded Knee and Alcatraz and she is a member of Indian women united for social justice. Welcome to both of you. One of the major concerns of your people at this time is the question of genocide. And more specifically your thinking and talking about forced sterilization of Indian women and Conny you did in 1972. You began to document this didn't you. Yes. My first case was a woman who had been sterilized aged 20 and they did a complete hysterectomy on
her. And. The reason given was that she had a drinking problem and they said that she wasn't taking care of the two children so she shouldn't have anymore. And at age 26 when she came to me. She had to resolve her drinking problem and she was fighting to get her children back. And she was going to marry she want a womb transplant. And that was the first case. And. From there I started asking more questions. What turned you on to it I mean what made you suspect that this was going on. Well I knew that medically speaking your daughter's age 20 take a woman's uterus out. The only indication is cancer or uncontrolled him Ridge. So it had to be a completely elective. It had to be for no other reason than to stop. Pregnancies. And you simply don't do that medically. So why had she at age 20 had this thought this was going to operations castration. So I asked the question I started asking you know and that was the beginning of of my of my search. Do you have figures.
Oh there's lots of figures. It's. It just depends upon you know how you want to go. Use them we don't know how many. That's why we feel when we have a lawsuit against the government. We will finally find out how many Indian women have truly been sterilized and we know that it's more than 25 percent. And though there are so few Indian women nowadays been killed off to less than. A million people now Indian people are less than a million that's counting the Escuela too. So we only have about a hundred thousand two hundred fifty thousand Indian women. It's very hard to get a good figure because so one of the way any people have survived just by. Not. Being easy to find. So if they have sterilized 25 percent that's a lot. And what we know there is 25 percent how much worse we don't know.
Do the women understand what was happening to them. I'd like for Marie to relate some of the situations on her reservation not you. You are from the village of Lame Deer. Yes the first time that. I became interested. In this issue with. At the time. Or report was published which is the jail record. That. Was a report by. Senator apparatus. And it lists. Through companies searching and. Finding. That this came about. Mainly. To. I guess to. Discredit you. And. At that time the number was thirty four hundred. Women were sterilized. And I. Just in conversation with my own. Cousins and. Friends in the village. In a week's time we found 26. Because I in
a personal interview. And I thought this was even that small number alarming. Because there's only. 23 hundred and. Indeed the women that you spoke with in your village understand. What had happened to them. Were they told for instance that it was reversible when it was not. You know think I mean well in this one instance. The girl was definitely told that later on she could have her tubes. Untied. But. Now they understand that sterilization is final. And. Now they try to rationalize. But. Their decision. Wasn't. Wasn't. Didn't take place. I think it's important you know to understand. For people to understand why you think this is happening. When you know it's happening to women. You know I can't go anywhere in the Indian community any anywhere but what women don't come up and say very quietly they want to
talk to me and. I take a deep breath because I know I'm going to hear another horror story. And. I don't you know you don't solicit these things there. It's so tragic and they come up and they and they. Tell what you know what happened and it's always the doctor who says that he put some of it put you know so this is good for you or. You should have this done the women don't go in and say sterilize me. They don't enter the hospitals they sterilized it you know and that the Government Accounting Office for investigation which like Maurice says was really to discredit me. I want to make one thing also clear I'm not alone in this there were 19 other women that also were involved in helping to expose this but because they work for the government they could not. Reveal their identities. And they're still working for the government. So I've taken both to the discredit and the credit in many ways by being out in the front. You know we're in the public eye. But. In this government accounting thing. They said 500 So women were
were sterilized and so some of the. Traditional chiefs in South Dakota on the reservation called over to the Indian Health Service Area Office. And they said that they wanted to find out how come this was done and so the Indian Health Service told them. They said all they all came in here wanted to be sterilized. And the chief says You mean to say there are women walked into the hospital instead and got on the operating table said sterilizes. That's not the way it happens and of course that in health services the insanity of this of this you know the ridiculousness of this kind of a statement. You know it comes so I can read the reservation One woman had headaches and yes she. Constantly went to the. End and health service Clement. Repeatedly complained. About. Terrible hit. Is it your feeling Marie that this is being done to consciously keep down the population of India into place. I really believe that. I don't. Care.
This amount of. Those sessions taking place and. People. You know that comprise the majority of the population. I'm sure that if. This. Method had taken place when. The sterilization was taking place at the time of. Columbus you know we still would have we might have been the. Major population. But getting back to the woman with the headaches the. Doctor suggested. That she have. A tubal ligation to get rid of her headaches. Yes. She did. She took his word. Almost all. Indian women would probably take the word of a doctor. And she had the operation. And her headaches came back. And they found out later she had a tumor. And her. Brain tumor. Yes.
There's some feeling that your village. Could become another Wounded Knee. There's some. Question about that. Cole writes in Seoul and in Carter's energy plan. When talk about that a little bit. The Cheyennes are setting up. 5 billion tons of coal. And. The government. Is going to. Use. Any method. To. Break us finally. To. Sell. Our coal. Though is anything coersion. Like in the case of. To keep our numbers down. Because if we multiply. You know we're going to. Give them a little bit. Harder time. To given up our coal.
And there's other other issues in the state of Montana. That the Northern Cheyenne faces. But with the other residents of Montana. And they are called the mob. That's Montanans opposing discrimination. They feel that tribal courts. Are so faulty that they don't wish to be under their jurisdiction. You're talking about the white people who live on the reservation. On or near the reservation. And. They. Feel that it's. Unconstitutional for them to. Appear before and in Judge and in jury. Only for misdemeanors. Right. Yes. And. I just. Really am appalled at. The mentality of these of this group. Because. Some are other states with which. This. Group of.
Oh a joint with. They appeal to quite a number of. Indian people. And it's really. Unbelievable that they can. Because they don't seem to consider the past history were. And even now. That an Indian has to appear before. A judge. And an all white jury. And they don't say anything about. Being unconstitutional how are they influencing the situation with the Cole. Their influence. Using. Legislation. Appealing to the legislators. They say that. They just want a local state and federal. Government. That. This would. Be. Just another double standard I guess for them. But I really feel that they're actually afraid. Because Indians.
Today. Are now becoming more aware. As to how much power they really have. Or could have. People. Are given. Have given us. A chance to. Oh I don't know organize. Because. There are methods. That appeal. They have. Their lawyers just don't have that much to. Fall on. Or any energy people. Consulting with the Indians. I mean I know it's obvious the country needs the coal right. And I mean are they saying to you Look we have this problem you have this coal. And is there a dialogue. I mean Washington all companies. Yeah. Either the coal companies or people from the federal government. The. Coal companies have. Or are still approaching the
tribal officials. And. Then the government I guess their form. Their method of. Trying to. Resist. Power plants you know for not. Developing they. Try to get us into. Projects. Were we could. You know. Eventually. To look. Toward. Developing. What we're talking about strip mining really right. Yes. You know. The. Feel that we should have a limited. Strip mining. Or. Controlled strip mining. But it's either going to be a straight yes or no. With the tribal officials if you thought about what this would do to the immediate environment and the people.
Well it'll be complete destruction. They issued a report in 1971. And it was a Tin Tin your plan on what to do with the upper Missouri River Basin. And that includes the Montana South Dakota Wyoming North Dakota and it goes all the way over to Kansas and Iowa and. Their water table underneath connects all of that ended I state's plans to put power plants in all those states and the the coal the coal field area up there is the size of those few states as. I think someone said the whole eastern seaboard equivalence saw eyes. And in the destruction of the land. They're putting in these gasification plants which convert the coal into liquid gas and they don't have those big smokestacks they put out the sulfur dioxide which is a poison that mixes with the moisture in the air and turns into sulphuric acid and. It's when they
need the water too to convert it so that water is a very precious commodity in the West. And. So for the sake of energy they will be doing two things that will kill the people in that area. They will. Have sulfur dioxide poisoning to the people and then they will deplete the water supply. And then the farm lands will all dry up like a moonscape. And the bread basket of the world which is now selling surplus wheat to foreign countries will be surplus and in war the be which shortage. You tell me of an instance where there are two or. Two of these factories and they're going to be two more two in the north and isn't on your elevated alert. Smokes that night nor And then but there are proposed. Plants. I think. Six additional is as the Carter Administration approved two in the south. We had.
A herring. Air. Air quality. Where. People testified. They wanted. The air quality. To. 0 1. But. I think in our area it's doesn't matter for two. Because. The. Place where we live is in the valley. And we're from. From these two small smokestacks. We're still going to be affected. By the emissions. Explain to them what they mean by class 1 and class 2. It's you know close to is this close one is you know pure air you know Class 2 is more poisoning. So they're going to say for the shyest to be you know well we're just going to poison you to this degree a little bit. But they're not looking at the they're not looking at the terrain the terrain is a very very very
vital thing in there with the like Marie says they have valleys that's rolling. So this it's very well known it's been documented in in London fog and everything of where you have a high moisture content and then you have a pooling of this in like and valleys or gullies you can drive through that and you'll be you'll have to put a gas mask on to go across her reservation at this goes through. So this giant people will be guests literally from the north and from the south they'll be surrounded by these stacks and that and the idiocy of this thing is that why why did the people have to be put on this altar sacrificed on the altar of you know for energy. And so they could have electric beds in Tulsa so they have electric shoe polish for electric toothbrushes. I mean they need they need these things for the show and people have to be poison. And the thing that. Is of. Great concern. Is Cheyenne.
Has. Has a high rate of tuberculosis. Or a past. Where the tuberculosis and you have a huge problem now. Right. And if. If. More more smokestacks were to be built around our reservation. These people with a past history of tuberculosis would be that much more. Susceptible. Tuberculosis is curable in most instances what why isn't it possible to eradicate tuberculosis from the reservation. Well. I. Really don't know. I don't really know. Quick answer to that. But I did you ever ask that question of someone. Yes I'd like to quote to Emory Johnson. He's the head of. Hey Jess. Where does ph US Public Health Service Indian Health Service I just under that. And I once asked him.
And he said that. You could never get rid of tuberculosis until. The people who had had it. Would walk off the face of the earth. And I. Really feel that. They should try. To. Lower. That rate of tuberculosis or any other health problems that we have. Rather than. Eliminate. Our. Future children. When I go back to the songs are back on health go back to the sterilization for a second. What recourse do you have to to stop this. I mean what are you doing with what's going to happen. I. Really. Would like to. Start litigation. Get a restraining order so that
practices like this will just continue. Would you stop it would you would you want to stop it completely. Yes. And I'd like to talk about the Indian Health Improvement Act. Well I think you probably better explain what it is. Well it's been very very well documented. There have volumes and volumes of perience and companies citizen. Studies and I said his government has made the study of Indian health it's. You know the good study is to the left you know they're not treating the diseases Well they're studying us. So they've finally documented that our health care is 30 years behind the rest of the people in the country. So finally after five years they have passed a bill in Congress last September 30th President Ford signed it. And it what the Act says is that the there are nice discover it now recognises it in health care is 30 years behind the rest of the country. And they they admit it and they're going to do something
about it. So President Ford signed this bill but he left office and he didn't allocate any money for it. So now we have a new man who is going to solve the Indian problem. So he has taken a red line. And he has drawn. A line through the Indian health dollar. We're not very high on his priority list are you talking about President Carter President Carter the peanut farmer from Georgia who picks up the arrowheads on his farm that once belonged to my tribe. And he's not in the White House and it's the Indian people it's like a parade one goes another comes another one goes another comes. And nothing when the wind changes. You know. And. Now here is a law. When you pass something in the nicest Congress and it's signed by a president that's a law. And he's not obeying the law. The law says he is to improve the Indian
Health. And bring it up to the level we're not asking for better health care than the rest of America. People were asking for only the saying how far behind you figure Indian Healthcare is 30 years. She has to be on her reservation that's rampant. But you don't find Rampa TB here in Buffalo. We have lots of other diseases Jacomo disease eyes if you want to find it in the other population I States. You don't find it you go to the Middle East you'll find it. But we have it here among the Indian people. You know President Carter he has a beautiful words about human rights but about the human rights american indians. And if he denies us medicine he can. It's just like he shoots us. Does that make it more acceptable to his religion. That he denies us medicine rather than to shoot us out right. Are you going to ask him what recourse have you. What are you going to do. We're going to go to Washington and probably those Congress where we have the year it's up be empty they're
probably flying around the airplane and other countries will probably be speaking to empty walls. But we have to speak. I mean I'm a physician. I can only diagnose something I can't make something well without medicine. And I can't be silent. I mean I don't know what he has in his budget that's more important in a human life. Who who makes policy for the Indian Health Service. Whiteman. They determine what India is going to live what is going to die. Marries Mr fish and chicken tell you. There was a girl that needed some help. And he tried to get money to send her to a special hospital. And they couldn't find the money the Indian Health Service to send her but they found money to do an abortion on a another individual mother. The thing and yes. As a physician I mean is there. Do you have a you know an organization of Indian women united for justice. Yes. Is this organization trying to do something.
Yes we're trying to we're supporting the last so we really want to so this United States government. We cannot undo all the harm and genocide that they've done to the people. But we also want to stop them. It's not just getting monetary damages for the women who've been harmed but we also want to stop then we have 16 year old girls who can't go to the hospital for fear of been sterilized. And we want to change the policy the United States government. It's really it's really sad that they think they can solve the Indian problem by. Sterilizing somehow or another enough of us have survived and are going to kill us all. It is a shame that they have to 200 years later. They have to do this we're no threat. One million Indians what kind of traitor would. You were shot at once. I don't want to go into that on the phone and I don't want to agree with that. All right. Marie would you talk a little bit about baby snatching. Baby snatching the proper work for that would be.
Placement of. Indian children. In. Proper. Christian. Homes. This. Been probably the practice. And maybe still is. Not just my reservation but. Other. Reservations. In the past. And. It's not still going on or it is still going. Not with my reservation. Because I'm I'm the person who can do something about it. And I've got a problem on other reservations that yes. Children. Who. Have been placed. And eventually adopted. Come by. And our culture we're out of time.
I thank you for being. Thank you. Produced by a responsible funding was provided by public television stations provided by
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Episode Number
Concerns of American Indian Women
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Connie Uri, M.D. and Marie Sanchez . Sanchez is Chief Judge of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. She is a mother of nine and is on the National Board of Research on the Plutonium Economy and the advisory board of NASC, the Native American Solidarity Committee. She is also a member of the International Treaty Council. Dr. Uri is a physician and is currently attending law school. She is a Chocktaw Cherokee. She supported the struggle at both Wounded Knee and Alcatraz. She is a member of the Indian Women United for Social Justice.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Social Issues
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Uri, Connie
Guest: Sanchez, Marie
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04444 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:47
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Chicago: “Woman; 442; Concerns of American Indian Women,” 1977-04-15, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
MLA: “Woman; 442; Concerns of American Indian Women.” 1977-04-15. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 12, 2024. <>.
APA: Woman; 442; Concerns of American Indian Women. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from