American Indian Caucus addresses ‘transgressions’ that harm women

Thursday, March 7, 2019
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Although we come from different corners of our state, and different sets of vibrant and diverse cultures, we share the same reverence for life and a sense of the inherent sacredness each of us has within.

Even beyond that, there is reserved a more hallowed space in the constellation of our existence for women; those who bring forth life, and nurture us, raise us, and impart their wisdom to us as we move through our lives.

The Montana American Indian Caucus will not tolerate transgressions that violate the trust placed in us as legislators. Nor will we sit silent and allow an individual to disrespect anyone who shares this space and participates in this great democratic process with us.

No matter our tribal affiliation or the community we come from, we have in common a deep and vital respect for those who have such an important role in the greater life of our communities, states and sovereign nations. Through these core beliefs, we have fostered a commitment to empower and lift up women in our state, in our communities, in the workplace and in the legislature.

At a time when our nation continues to grapple with public officials who harass, stalk, or assault women, it becomes increasingly important for us to affirm our values that women are sacred. It becomes even more urgent for us, as elected officials, to abide by those values when allegations or misconduct involve any member of our own legislative body.

Our Caucus has worked tirelessly to bring forward legislation that will empower, protect and lift up women. In bringing legislation to combat the epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women, and to eliminate a state celebration of a man who engaged in the enslavement and trafficking of Native women, we seek not only to move Montana forward, but to be role models for future generations of women in the state and across Indian Country.

But it must not be just through legislation that we set an example. We must hold all Montanans to a standard of appropriate behavior in our daily lives.

As the Montana American Indian Caucus, we pledge to stand tall and fight for the values we cherish. Nothing is more important to us as a Caucus, as individual legislators, and as Native Montanans than the protection and empowerment of all women in Montana. For the remainder of this session, and for all that come after, the Montana American Indian Caucus remains stalwart in our commitment to defend and lift up women across the state we call home and will not stand for any form of misconduct that does otherwise.

Those who signed this column include House Democratic Whip Rep. Shane Morigeau (HD-95), Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy (HD-42), Rep. Rae Peppers (HD-41), Rep. Barbara Bessette (HD-24), Rep. Marvin Weatherwax (HD-15), Rep. Bridget Smith (HD-31), Rep. Jade Bahr (HD-50), Rep. Tyson Running Wolf (HD-16), Sen. Frank Smith (SD-16), Sen. Susan Webber (SD-8) and Sen. Jason Small (SD-21).