Three women have publicly accused prominent Seattle writer Sherman Alexie of sexual harassment. NPR aired the allegations Monday.
Sara Marie Ortiz is a member of the Pueblo of Acoma, a federally-recognized tribal nation in New Mexico. She's a longtime friend of Alexie’s. Ortiz said she’s never seen Alexie harass anybody, but said she knows two of the women in the NPR story, and considers them "sisters, and mentors, and helpers."
“It's not hard to reconcile for me in the sense that so much of what goes on in our Native arts and writers’ world is very complicated, and there is a lot of contradiction,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz says the allegations against Alexie are “immensely complicated” in the Native community, partly because Alexie is one of the few well-known Native writers.
“We have risen him to this star status because we needed him to be a star in so many contexts, and that's problematic.”
Ortiz says that creates a conflict between wanting to elevate the voices of women who say Alexie has harmed them, and wanting to protect one of the few Native artists with national attention.
She said there are other divides, too.
“It feels like there's kind of a civil war of sorts within the Native arts, and literary, and education community where some people want to see it cause a battle of sorts, instead of being more reflective and reasoned about it.”
Ortiz says the #metoo movement has created a blueprint that doesn’t fit Native tradition or culture. But she says she’s glad that women have come forward to tell their stories – and hopes that this starts a healing process for all involved.
Alexie did not reply to numerous requests for comment. He did release a statement days before the allegations were made public apologizing for “doing things that have harmed other people.”