For Native American women, the gender pay gap reflects the systems that have oppressed them for centuries. The colonization that stripped them of power, the violence now plaguing them and the economic institutions that have left them behind — those factors have helped form a gap in income and wages that is among the widest of any group of women.

November 30 marks Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day, spotlighting that those working full- or part-time are still earning only 55 cents for every $1 paid to non-Latino White men. Only Latinas have a wider gap.

But 55 cents is, in many ways, an incomplete figure.

There is much that is unknown about the nuances of the pay gap for Native American women. For years, the United States has failed to invest in data collection on Indigenous communities, making it difficult to reliably track wage gaps among the 574 federally recognized tribes. What is known about a couple of the largest tribes is also extremely limited. The data is older and it relies on very small sample sizes that open significant room for error. And with differing locations, sizes and makeups, it’s next to impossible to compare the tribes with each other.

Still, the little data available offers some clues as to what may be driving the gap for different groups, revealing points of weakness in existing systems — and opportunities.

Like for most women, caregiving responsibilities limit the economic mobility of Native American women, who traditionally have cared for multiple generations often at once. That has an impact on entire communities. Sixty-four percent of Native mothers are breadwinners in their families. About a quarter of Native households are headed by women, with 30 percent of them living under the poverty level, according to census data compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

“The time when you are more likely to have your most earning potential is also when you have the greatest demand of supporting your family structure,” said Lauren Grattan, co-founder and chief community officer of Mission Driven Finance, who works directly with Tribal Nations and Indigenous entrepreneurs. “That is particularly prevalent for Native American women.”

At the same time, more than 4 out of 5 Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetimes. They are two to three times more likely than other women to experience violence, stalking or sexual assault. That epidemic is “one of the major underpinnings that keeps Indigenous women from having that economic liberation,” said Vanessa Roanhorse, the CEO of Roanhorse Consulting, an Indigenous woman-led think tank, and co-founder of Native Women Lead, which supports Native women’s economic mobility.

Stacked on top are factors that are more specific to the makeup or location of tribes. Some of the tribes with the largest gaps include Navajo, Apache, Blackfoot, Pueblo and Sioux, while a couple of the Alaskan tribes have narrower gaps.

Read the full article about Native women equal pay gap by Chabeli Carrazana at The19th.