Policy Director discusses gender dynamics at Standing Rock


Dina Gilio-Whitaker of the Colville-Confederated Tribes lectures about gender issues and social justice for Native Americans. Being a Native American journalist, Whitaker went to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to witness the social movement taking place. Photo credit: Scarled Murillo

Carmelita Islas Mendez

The Policy Director and Senior Research Associate for World Indigenous Studies was invited to lecture Cerritos College students about social justice and gender issues among Native Americans.

Aside from her work with World Indigenous Studies, Dina Gilio-Whitaker is also a professor at California State University San Marcos teaching American Indian Studies.

Focusing on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Whitaker spoke about the impact Native American face and the issues they face while trying to reclaim “what little we have.”

Being a Native American journalist, Whitaker went to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to witness the social movement taking place.

“My goal was to bear witness, to document what I saw and to help contextualize what the Standing Rock struggle was in the larger picture,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker also spoke about the danger that Native people face, women specifically.

During the lecture Whitaker informed that Native Americans are at the greatest risk to experience a case of sexual violence.

“Every conceivable social ill, Native Americans are at the top of the list. Like I said in my talk, the land is rendered as rapeable and enviable and I think that is so ingrained in the American social psyche that it enacts itself,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker attributes colonialism, history, genocide and normalized oppression as the reasons for the social ills that plague Native Americans.

Whitaker shared that she had experienced domestic violence in her life.

“I was victimized by domestic violence in two separate marriages by non-native men. Why? I don’t know, but I fit the profile I am a native woman that was victimized by non-native men, so that is how I have to look at it. I don’t have the answers, but I have the information,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker also talked about problematic portrayals of Native Americans in American culture, such as the controversial mascot for the Washington Redskins.

Whitaker said to people who claim that Natives were too sensitive about the mascot, “Try having a football team named the Washington Jews or the Missouri Mexicans or fill in the blank. How would that fly?”