Last night I attended an excellent Zoom meeting by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), our Quaker lobbying organization.
The presentation was on May 5, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. It was a virtual lobby training on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with Kerri Colfer, FCNL’s Native American Policy Lobbyist, Amelia Kegan and Bobby Trice.
The statistics of missing and murdered Indigenous women are staggering—84 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes. In some communities, the murder rate is 10 times the national average.
It was an excellent presentation that combined an update on legislation related to Native American issues and taught us about new tools FCNL has for our lobbying efforts, especially with the changes related to the coronavirus, including no in person lobby visits.
By far the most comprehensive and current information I’m aware of is a recent article by my friend Christine Nobiss. PRESIDENT TRUMPS’ OPERATION LADY JUSTICE: THE TRUTH ABOUT VIOLENCE TO INDIGENOUS WOMXN, GIRLS AND LGBTQIA+/2S that includes our open letter to President Trump: Five Asks for May Fifth
The first tool the FCNL staff taught us about was how to lobby Congress from home. Organize your own virtual lobby visit .Congress needs to hear your voice, especially during this unprecedented national quarantine. Now is the time to lobby “virtually” via your home phone or computer! This link includes a number of excellent resources to use to set up your virtual lobby visits.
- Request a meeting: Contact the scheduler in your local congressional office to request a lobby visit by telephone or video conference. Ask the office if they have a conference line, or set up your own conference line for everyone to use.
- Tip: some offices are very comfortable with videoconferencing technology, but others are not. Keep that in mind when making your request, and make sure the office knows that you are available to connect in whatever way they prefer.
- Plan for your virtual lobby visit: Meet virtually with your lobbying group to plan your conversation using FCNL’s virtual lobbying road map. Don’t forget to assign roles, write down the logistical details, and time a practice session.
- Send your “leave behind” early: When you confirm your visit with the staffer the day before your meeting, attach your “leave behind” so that they can reference it throughout your call.
- “Arrive” Early: If you are using your own phone or video line, gather your delegation at least 10 minutes before the call is set to begin. Take attendance and make sure the note taker has the names, cities, states, and email addresses of all participants to include in the follow-up email.
FCNL’s priority now related to Native Affairs is to prioritize Victim Services in Indian Country in the Next COVID-19 Relief Package. Please urge your members of Congress to include funding for victim services for tribes in the fourth COVID-19 stimulus package. Furthermore, legislators should give tribes maximum flexibility and discretion in using the funding. We were shown how to send a message to our representatives about this issue using the new Action Center. https://fcnl.quorum.us/campaign/25737/
The address to the New Action Center is https://fcnl.quorum.us/
Here is a video about how to use the New Action Center.
Yesterday I told the story of how I first became aware of the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. This is one of several important things I was not aware of until I was able to make friends with people who are today directly affected by this. One of the things I learned during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, September, 2018.
The purpose of the March was for a small group of Native and non-native people to get to know each other so we could work together on issues of common concern. One of the first opportunities to do so was several weeks after the March, when several of us met with Carol Olson, Senator Chuck Grassley’s State Director at the Federal Building in Des Moines. Two of Senator Grassley’s staff from Washington, DC, joined us via a conference call. The meeting was a chance for us to get to know each other and find ways we can work with Senator Grassley and others to pass legislation to support Native American communities. Those who attended are shown in the photo below.