For generations, the Yamasi People of the present-day Southeastern United States have fought against human rights violations committed by the US government through years of colonization and war. More recently, the violations continue by US-subsidized corporations that are illegally encroaching upon their ancestral lands with plans for casino development. Yamasi women note that these corporations have systematically incarcerated and in some instances murdered their brothers, cousins, sons, uncles and fathers. The women are now the leaders of the efforts to battle corporations in the area. These corporations are targeting the women with rape in attempts to intimidate them and destroy their identity. The ultimate goal of these attacks is to prevent the Yamasi from asserting their legal rights to exist.
When the US finally (and unexpectedly) endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Yamasi People saw a unique opportunity to coordinate with other indigenous groups to educate the world about violations committed by the US at the 2011 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the 19th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Yamasi People requested funds to support them to attend the convenings. Yamasi women, representing the Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center, traveled to the forum and networked with other indigenous women to plan coordinated efforts to raise awareness on indigenous peoples’ human rights, and indigenous women’s rights in particular. They also initiated an awareness-raising campaign to expose the issue of the use of rape as a weapon by both the US military and corporations, as well as the detrimental environmental impact of development in the area.