Guest lecturer visits Global Women’s Studies class, speaks on violence against indigenous communities

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Moroni Benally talks about indigenous self-governance and land during a lecture on Nov. 11. (Rebecca Nissen)

BYU professors sometimes invite visitors to lecture during their class to discuss issues they might otherwise feel underqualified to talk about. Moroni Benally, coordinator for public policy and advocacy at Restoring Ancestral Winds Incorporated, was one of these visitors to the Introduction to Global Women’s Studies class on the first floor of the Kennedy Center. Advocating the rights of indigenous communities, he shared stories and numbers he described as “sobering statistics.”

During the lecture, Benally spoke about how past traumatic experiences can impact indigenous communities, specifically Native Americans. One point he mentioned was the statistical errors found in false or missing crime reports involving the indigenous community.

One specific instance Benally brought up regarded a set of statistics reporting the number of “murders of homicides of Native Hawaiians in the state of Utah.”

“We sat down with our Native Hawaiian and Polynesian community leaders and law enforcement and they said, ‘That number is wrong,'” Benally said. “But these are official numbers that we use to make policy that the Utah Legislature relies on for appropriations in response to crime.”

Benally talked about the topic’s difficult nature, saying that even he has had to seek help for the secondary trauma he experiences while helping others through their own harrowing experiences.

Benally said these topics, though difficult, have given him a new perspective in life.

“It has healed me in more ways than I can even imagine,” Benally said. “And what this does, it also heals communities. And when you heal communities, you heal generations to come.”

BYU professor Roni Jo Draper talked about the benefits of inviting guest lecturers into the classroom.

“For me, it makes sense to have people who are intimately involved with the work be the ones telling about the work,” Draper said. “I don’t have the expertise that Moroni has in terms of understanding the statistics and the sort of the political infrastructure in Utah.”

Isabella Lines, a student in the Introduction to Global Women’s Studies class, also shared her thoughts about Benally’s lecture.

“I really appreciated the guest lecture especially because the Native American topic was important to me,” Lines said. “I am from Chandler, Arizona, and I grew up around reservations and had a best friend with two Native American foster siblings, so I feel like I know more about the culture and displacement today than most people.”

For those struggling with rape, abuse, or any type of domestic violence, within or outside of the Native American community, Restoring Ancestral Winds’ website has resources that individuals can use to find help.

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