The sterilizations of indigenous women were either genuine mistakes or less direct means of the continuation of the extermination policy against the Indian Nations. At least three indigenous generations from 3,406 women are not in existence now as the result of either human error or intentional genocide. Were the sterilizations unintentional, negligible, or intended genocide? What would the indigenous culture and political landscape be now? One can only imagine, but the sterilizations like the relocations – were forced.
First, the forced sterilizations must be seen in the historical and the more modern context.
Only when we saw them building roads through our land, wagons at first, and then the railroad, when we watched them building forts, killing off all the game, committing buffalo genocide, and we saw them ripping up our Black Hills for gold, our sacred Paha Sapa, the home of the wakinyan, the thunderbirds, only then did we realize what they wanted was our land. Then we began to fight. For our earth. For our children. That started what the whites call the Great Indian Wars of the West. I call it the Great Indian Holocaust.
Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the United States.
A report released by the Department of Justice, American Indians and Crime, found that Native American women suffer violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average. National researchers estimate that this number is actually much higher than has been captured by statistics; according to the Department of Justice over 70% of sexual assaults are never reported.
Here’s a historical example of violence against a Native American woman during this general time, to complete laying the foundation.
On February 24, 1976, Aquash was found dead by the side of State Road 73 on the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, about 10 miles from Wanblee, South Dakota, close to Kadoka. Her body was found during an unusually warm spell in late February, 1976 by a rancher, Roger Amiotte. The first autopsy (reports are now public information) states: “it appears she had been dead for about 10 days.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ medical practitioner, W. O. Brown, missing the bullet wound on her skull, stated that “she had died of exposure.” 
Subsequently, her hands were cut off and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington, D.C. for fingerprinting. Although federal agents were present who knew Anna Mae, she was not identified, and her body was buried as a Jane Doe.
On March 10, 1976, eight days after Anna Mae’s burial, her body was exhumed as the result of separate requests made by her family and AIM supporters, and the FBI. A second autopsy was conducted the following day by an independent pathologist from Minneapolis, Dr. Garry Peterson. This autopsy revealed that she had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet in the back of the head, execution style.
The general historical foundation being laid, I now ask a question:
What would the population of indigenous people be now, approximately three generations after the forced sterilizations?
According to the GAO report, 3406 Native American women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four were sterilized between 1973 and 1976.
Dissecting the Sterilizations of Native American Women in the 1970’s
In the old days, genocide used to be so simple. Such things as biological warfare used to keep Indians warm with small pox infested blankets furnished by the United States government, and the only thing barren and infertile was the land set aside for reservations.In the 1970s, genocide became a little more complex.
Biological warfare invaded the reproductive rights of Native American women, making their wombs as barren and infertile as reservation land. The sterilization policies during this time perpetuated the genocidal tendencies that have made the eugenics movement a viable legacy of terror in the biological history of Native Americans.
Next, the specifics of who uncovered the forced sterilizations and why that conclusion was reached are vital. The dark moment of discovery came from a Choctaw- Cherokee physician named Connie Uri.
A Choctaw-Cherokee physician, Connie Uri, uncovered this program (large-scale sterilization) when she was asked by a young Indian woman for a womb transplant.
A young Indian woman entered Dr.Connie Pinkerton-Uri’s Los Angeles office on a November day in 1972. The twenty-six-year-old woman asked Dr. Pinkerton-Uri for a “womb transplant” because she and her husband wished to start a family.
An Indian Health Service (IHS) physician had given the woman a complete hysterectomy when she was having problems with alcoholism six years earlier. Dr. Pinkerton-Uri had to tell the young woman that there was no such thing as a “womb transplant” despite the IHS physician having told her that the surgery was reversible. The woman left Dr. Pinkerton-Uri’s office in tears. 1
Kurt Kaltreider, PH.D. “American Indian Prophecies.” p. 71.
She (Connie Uri) scoured the records of the BIA-run Indian Health Service Hospital in Claremore, Oklahoma, and discovered that 75% of the sterilizations were nontherapeutic. Many of the women did not understand the true nature of the surgery, thought it was a kind of reversible birth control, or even signed the consent forms while groggy from sedation after childbirth.
The hospital records show that both tubal ligation and hysterectomies were used in sterilization. Dr. Uri commented: “In normal medical practice, hysterectomies are rare in women of child bearing age unless there is cancer or other medical problems” (Akwesasne Notes, 1974: 22). Besides the questionable surgery techniques being allowed to take place, there was also the charge of harassment in obtaining consent forms.
In addition, Montana also had instances of forced sterilizations.
Two young women entered an IHS hospital in Montana to undergo appendectomies and received tubal ligations, a form of sterilization, as an added benefit. Bertha Medicine Bull, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, related how the “two girls had been sterilized at age fifteen before they had any children. Both were having appendectomies when the doctors sterilized them without their knowledge or consent.” Their parents were not informed either. Two fifteen-year-old girls would never be able to have children of their own. 2
Kutr Kaltreider, PH.D. “American Indian Prophecies.” pp. 71-72.
Following Dr. Uri’s lead, Senator James Abourezk initiated a federal investigation of the General Accounting office. The resulting report gave the results of a survey from four out of twelve regions with Indian Health Services hospitals. In a three-tear period, over 3,400 sterilizations were performed; 3,000 of them on Indian women under the age of 44. In not one instance were the women offered consent forms that met the federal guidelines and requirements. About 5% of Indian women were being sterilized –
Native Americans accused the Indian Health Service of sterilizing at least 25 percent of Native American women who were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four during the 1970s.
Albuquerque, Aberdeen, and Phoenix also shared in “inconsistent and inadequate” medical forms. As was mentioned above, there was a federal investigation.
by Kamet Larson
Most of the 3,400-plus cases involved women who have been sterilized by Indian Health Service doctors (by specially hired physicians in one-third of the cases) — whether voluntarily or for reasons of medical necessity is unclear, since IHS records blur that critical distinction. Going through three years of files in four of the 52 IHS service areas, federal investigators could find no conclusive proof that the sterilized patients had given their fully informed consent as HEW (which operates the IHS) defines it. For “voluntary, knowing assent” HEW requires a description of what the surgical procedure or experiment is, its discomforts, risks and benefits; a disclosure of appropriate alternatives; an offer to answer questions; and an assurance that the patient is free to withdraw consent at any time without losing benefits. Forms on file in Albuquerque, Aberdeen, Oklahoma City and Phoenix were found to be incomplete on these basic points, inconsistent, inadequate, and “generally not in compliance with the Indian Health Service regulations.” Among the stacks of material looked at were physician complaints that preparing the required summaries of conversations with patients was “too time-consuming.” Had the IHS been as careless with its patients as with its own record-keeping?
What would the population of indigenous people be now? What would the indigenous culture and political landscape be now for indigenous people?
I don’t know, but one thing is clear to me: the sterilizations, like the relocations – were forced.
“And…if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, ” he wrote, “we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi.” Jefferson, the slave owner, continued, “in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them”. (Ibid)
The following is a copy of an article by Joan Burnes which appeared in the Lakota Times last August 24th (1994).
– snip –
Emery A. Johnson, then-director of the IHS, told a congressional committee in 1975 that IHS “considered non-therapeutic sterilization a legitimate method of family planning… We are not aware of any instance in which such services have been abused.”
To conclude, this is a video Sigrid shared with me. It says what I want to say in this conclusion.
We shall live again.