We at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center are humbled and grateful to continue our work to provide culturally grounded, grassroots advocacy to end gender-based violence in indigenous communities and to support tribal sovereignty. Recently, we issued a statement and offered our prayers for the family and friends of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind. Savanna’s murder, along with the countless other murdered and missing Native women and girls, is a painful reminder of the epidemic levels of violence facing Native women in this country. Although the heartache for Savanna’s family is unbearable, we take solace in learning that baby Haisley has been reunited with her father. In this edition, we share the advocacy efforts from guest contributor Marisa Miakonda Cummings, an UmoNhoN and Sioux City community member and organizer of a prayer group for Savanna and all missing and murdered women and girls.
In this 2017 Fall edition of Advocate! Beyond the Shelter Doors e-newsletter, you will also find: a proud congratulation to our StrongHearts sister, Mallory Black, on winning four Native American Journalists Association Awards, an update on the StrongHearts Native Helpline, upcoming fall awareness months activities and calendar including October Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a congratulations to our sisters in the work who won Native American 40 Under 40 awards, a highlight listing of some our recent resources now available, an update from our youth program NativeLove, a wellness circle post on creative self-care, highlights from the journalism workshop “Covering Violence Against Native Women And Children” and an important save the date for our upcoming 2018 Women Are Sacred Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico!
In the Featured Art section, Caroline LaPorte, Senior Native Affairs Policy Advisor for NIWRC, shares her experience screening the feature film Wind River in Washington D.C. The film hit theaters this past August, and a special screening took place on August 8th for the National Congress of American Indians. The Featured Art section is where we share art forms as a means of social change including new documentaries or films, art exhibits and positive/uplifting projects connecting to preventing and healing from domestic or family violence. Suggestions welcome!
We would like to thank each advocate, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and grandmother, as well as each man, brother, father and son, for their continued support of the movement to end domestic violence and for making NIWRC the valuable organization it is today. We look forward to traversing this new landscape together and to the enhanced advocacy that arises.
Lucy Rain Simpson
Executive Director, NIWRC
NIWRC is pleased to announce that we will be hosting the WAS Conference at the beautiful Hotel Albuquerque on June 26-28, 2018. Mark your calendars and watch our website for more details, including registration and agenda. The WAS Conference is one of the oldest and largest gatherings of advocates, survivors, tribal domestic and sexual violence programs, tribal community members, tribal leadership, law enforcement and tribal court personnel dedicated to ending violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and children. WAS offers state of the art training opportunities designed to increase the capacity of tribal nations, tribal domestic violence and community-based programs to address violence in tribal communities. Conference presenters include emerging Indigenous leaders and experts in the movement to ending violence.
- Special Collections: HIV/Intimate Partner Violence. This Special Collection is developed to highlight the issues, resources and other suggestions for addressing HIV and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) within our communities. The collection organizes information and resources available on the internet such as tips and curricula drawn from the wealth of information gathered from partner organizations, experts from the field, and other allies. More specifically, this toolkit will house resources on cultural issues, national sources, statistics, topical issues and approaches, existing programs, and available material and resources to create awareness and promote important discussions about HIV/IPV. This collection will expand as resources and new information become available.
- Downloadable Fact Sheet-Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally sponsored by Senators Biden and Hatch, was enacted in 1994 as a result of national grassroots organizing by battered women and advocates. These efforts included Indian women who organized to engage tribal, state, and federal systems to hold governments accountable to address the nationwide statistics, crisis, and seriousness of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence committed against women. The Act’s passage marked the federal government’s acknowledgment of the extent and pervasiveness of violence against women and the need for more dedicated services for victims and an increased response from the justice system to these crimes. Over the last two decades, VAWA has grown into an historic Act reshaping the laws, policies, and responses of federal, tribal, and state governments.
- Downloadable Fact Sheet–Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). FVPSA is the primary federal funding source dedicated to supporting immediate shelter and supportive services for victims of family violence, domestic violence, or dating violence and their dependents. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children, Youth and Families, FVPSA supports these activities through state and Tribal shelter programs, state domestic violence coalitions, training and technical assistance service providers and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
- June 2017 Restoration Magazine Volume 14, Issue 2 “Increasing Public Awareness of Missing & Murdered Native Women”: The Restoration of Sovereignty & Safety magazine is a publication dedicated to informing tribal leadership and communities of emerging issues impacting the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women. The name of the magazine, Restoration of Sovereignty & Safety, reflects the grassroots strategy of the Task Force that by strengthening the sovereignty of Indian nations to hold perpetrators accountable the safety of Native women will be restored. The magazine is a joint project of the NCAI Task Force, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, and Clan Star, Inc. It is produced and made available during national NCAI conventions and the annual USDOJ – Tribal VAWA Consultation. Print Delivery Subscriptions Available $ 30/Individual, $100/Institutional (Institutional subscriptions receive three (3) print copies per issue).
We, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), are grieving the news of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind’s murder, adding to the already heavy burden our people carry due to the countless murdered and missing Native women and girls throughout the country. While we, and so many others, feel grief, pain, sorrow, anger and frustration, we know that as a collective movement, we must also find the strength to channel these feelings into action. There is so much work to be done to end this horrific legacy and history of violence against our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties, and friends.
We cannot do this heavy work without first grounding ourselves in prayer, and so our first call to action is to lift up our collective voices in prayer. We offer up prayers for little Haisley Jo and her father Ashton Matheny, the entire Fontaine-Greywind and Matheny families, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Spirit Lake Indian tribes, as well as the family and friends of the countless other Native women and girls murdered or missing.
Our grief is heavy. We have been here too many times before and we want it to stop. The current reports of abduction and murder of American Indian women and girls are alarming and represent one of the most horrific aspects of the spectrum of violence committed against Native women. The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations. Often, these disappearances or murders are connected to crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. The intersection of gender based violence and MMIW is heavily intertwined.
We strive to lift the voices of the families and communities impacted by all murdered and missing Native women and girls. We strive to support grassroots activism, as we see, too often, the local response is the only response. It is an abomination that many times the only searches for our missing women are organized by family and friends, and not law enforcement. We aim to raise awareness and increase justice on a national level. But our work must not focus merely on improving the official response when a Native woman or girl is missing. We must restore our women to a place of honor, respect and sacredness so that these crimes can finally end.
We at NIWRC would like to take this opportunity to send strength and support, and hold as relatives, the many tribal advocates and local programs, Native organizations, and tribal coalitions offering direct support to Savanna and Ashton’s families, her tribal communities of Spirit Lake Dakota/Turtle Mountain Chippewa, as well as the larger communities of North Dakota and Minnesota. We stand in solidarity with these many Strong Hearts.
“Just know that we are with you, grieving with you, sending prayers for the precious baby, family, community, and still keeping our sleeves up as to what we can do for our sisters, communities, villages, and Nations. We stand in support for you and the sacredness of your work & advocacy that you do by and for the people.”- NIWRC Staff
NIWRC is committed to increasing safety and access to justice for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women and girls, to bringing awareness to this critical issue of missing and murdered Native women, and to preventing future acts of violence in our Nations. Together, we will never stop fighting for justice.
Lucy Simpson, Navajo
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Explore more information and resources on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women:
- NIWRC’s “Statement of first National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls on May 5th, 2017”
- NIWRC Recorded webinar-May 5th, 2017 “Honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” In 2005, the movement for the safety of Native women led the struggle to include under the Violence Against Women Act a separate title for Native women called Safety for Indian Women. One of the findings of this title was that during the period of 1979 through 1992, homicide was the third-leading cause of death of Indian females aged 15 to 34, and 75 percent were killed by family members or acquaintances. Since that time, a study by the U.S. Department of Justice has found that in some tribal communities, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average. Over the last decade awareness of this national issue has increased but more must be done at all levels to stop the disappearances and save lives. To address an issue it must first be acknowledged.
- Indian Country Today article-March 2017 on NIWRC’s Congressional Briefing. “‘We All Know Someone’: Tribal Community, Advocates Seek to Honor Missing and Murdered Native American Women.”
- Restoration Magazine-June 2017: http://www.niwrc.org/files/Restoration-V14.2.pdf
In the News
September 2017 is Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month & National Campus Safety Awareness Month
- Wear Orange: Monday, September 25th: Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment! Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts. Congratulations to Jennifer Himel is of Hopi tribe of Arizona, founder of UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment. Jennifer was mentioned in Indian Country Today’s “Indigenous Women Who Are Making a Difference.”
- WATCH: “Domestic Violence Safety Issues When Meth Is Present.” NIWRC Recorded webinar-May 17, 2017: Methamphetamine has been identified as one of the largest threats to public safety in Indian Country. Tribal sources have attributed it to higher rates of domestic violence, assaults, burglaries, and child abuse and neglect on reservations and in tribal communities. 74% of tribal police forces rank meth as the greatest drug threat to their communities; 40-50% of violent crime cases investigated by the FBI in Indian country involve meth in some capacity; and 64% of tribal police indicate an increase in domestic violence and assault/battery. The complex nature of criminal jurisdiction on Indian reservations, along with historically under funded and understaffed health care, treatment facilities and law enforcement have resulted in major challenges for tribes to address this problem.
- EXPLORE: Domestic Violence and Drug Abuse-Undeniable Connection Resource webpage. Domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) is a violent pattern or behavior that causes harm to a romantic partner. The main goal of the abuser is to take control over the other person. When people get caught in this circle of violence, it is hard to get away from it without help. Usually, the abuser makes the victim think they are worthless and unable to live without them. That is why many victims do not think about leaving.
- EXPLORE: Start Your Recovery.org-Reliable substance abuse information tailored to you. StartYourRecovery.org offers relatable information for people who are dealing with substance use issues — and their family members, friends, and co-workers, too. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges faced by those who misuse alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, or other substances, and we aim to break through the clutter to help people at any stage of recovery. Their goal is to offer people who are dealing with substance use issues a single source of reputable, objective information about signs, symptoms, conditions, treatment options, and resources — presented in a user-friendly format and in language that’s easy to understand.
- RESOURCE: Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States. This report presents 2016 national estimates of use of alcohol, tobacco products, illicit drugs (such as, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants, as well as the misuse of opioids, prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives), substance use disorders, and substance use treatment among people 12 years of age and older. It Includes national estimates of any mental illness, serious mental illness, major depressive episode, use of mental health services and suicidal ideation among adults ages 18 or older and national estimates of major depressive episode, use of mental health services among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Trend information on these topics are also presented.
- Get Help through Alcoholics Anonymous is an Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.
- Get Help through Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization with a multi-lingual and multicultural membership. We offer recovery from the effects of addiction through working a twelve-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings. The group atmosphere provides help from peers and offers an ongoing support network for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Our name, Narcotics Anonymous, is not meant to imply a focus on any particular drug; NA’s approach makes no distinction between drugs including alcohol. Membership is free, and we have no affiliation with any organizations outside of NA including governments, religions, law enforcement groups, or medical and psychiatric associations.
- Are you on a student campus? Sign up for a free webinar and explore resources to help your planning activities for National Campus Safety Awareness Month.
October 2017 is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
- JOIN: NIWRC emailing list. During the month of September & October, NIWRC will be sharing resources to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. DVAM resources include; press release, sample tribal resolution (to advocate your tribe to adopt DVAM), ideas for community activities & engagement. We share these with the aim of raising awareness on this severe crisis, encouraging others to join the movement against domestic violence, and raising our voices in the name of tribal sovereignty once again to bring safety to Native nations.
- SHARE: 31 Days of Domestic Violence cards on social media. We will upload newly designed cards with new content later in the month of September.
- EXPLORE: Archived NIWRC domestic violence resources. Including; multiple webinars, printed products for dv shelters and programs, and a film.
- CALL: StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1 (844) 762-8483 during Monday-Friday 9am-5:30pm CST. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a culturally appropriate, confidential service for Native Americans affected by domestic violence and dating violence. To request brochures, posters and palm cards for your DAVM outreach, please fill out the online form here.
- WEAR PINK: Thursday, October 19th- Wear pink for Indigenous Pink Day, a national breast cancer awareness campaign for American Indians/Alaska Natives. The American Indian Cancer Foundation asks men and women of all ages to wear pink and share photos on social media using the hashtag #IndigenousPink to spread breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the most common cancer found in American Indian/Alaska Native women. The goal of Indigenous Pink Day is to educate all indigenous people on the importance of early detection and remind men and women to keep up to date on their screenings.
- WEAR ORANGE: Wednesday, October 25th-Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment!Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts.
- WATCH/SHARE: Domestic Violence Video Resource Highlights: 1. Buffalo Nickel Creative’s Tihirasa – Pawnee Nation Healing Center for Domestic & Sexual Violence , It Ends Where it Begins – Anti-Domestic Violence PSA and To The Indigenous Woman. 2. Native Daughters video NDV OmahaSecret. 3. LISTEN: NET News “An Epidemic Of Violence: Nebraska Native Women Struggle to Break the Cycle.”
- SHARE: Is your community hosting your own candle lit walk? Self-defense classes? Please share these photos with your views on how domestic violence impacts your community, and take a stand against domestic violence using the#ViolenceIsNotMyTradition hashtag!
November 2017 is Native American Heritage Month
- WATCH: 11 Essential Native American Films You Can Watch Online Right Now. So you can’t make it to the festivals and big-city arthouse theaters where many of these films screen? Doesn’t matter! Here are 11 Native American films you can watch in your own home, right now on Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Video, iTunes and VUDU and more. Pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and hold your own Native Film Festival.
- WEAR ORANGE: Saturday, November 25th-Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment!Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts.
- SHARE: Your organization or community is doing to celebrate Native American Heritage History Month and we’ll promote them on our social media accounts! Send your event to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deleana OtherBull, Crow and Northern Cheyenne Tribes, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) Executive Director, has received a Native American 40 Under 40 award by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED).
The prestigious award was created in 2008 to acknowledge emerging Native American, Alaska Native and First Nation members between the ages of 18 and 39 who demonstrate leadership, initiative, dedication and achieved significant contributions in business and Native communities throughout North America.
After becoming executive director in November 2014, OtherBull (Crow and Northern Cheyenne) increased the Coalition’s operating budget from about $240,000 to $700,000. She also diversified funding, reducing CSVANW’s reliance on a sole federal source and supplementing it with grants from private foundations and corporations, as well as individual donors. Staffing and programming has also increased under OtherBull’s leadership.
Erica Tremblay, Seneca-Cayuga Nation, is a filmmaker, the co-founder of Homespun Pictures and the Director of Video at the Bustle Digital Group. She has also received a Native American 40 Under 40 award by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED). Her films have been featured on PBS, the Independent Film Channel, ELLE Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Over the past three years Erica has worked with a number of organizations to document the fight to end violence against indigenous women. In 2015, she worked with the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) and FORCE to document the Quilt Walk for Justice held in front of the Supreme Court to protest the Dollar General VS Mississippi Choctaw case, titled “Ending the Violence, Organizing for Safety.” In 2016, Erica worked with Wica Agli and White Buffalo Calf Woman Society to document a program on the Rosebud Reservation using traditional teachings to rehabilitate domestic violence perpetrators. Currently, Erica is working with the Alaska Native Women’s Coalition to document missing and murdered indigenous women in Alaska.
Erica’s most recent feature-length film, In the Turn, received numerous awards including Best Feature Film and Best Documentary at several film festivals and secured international distribution. She has been featured on CNN and Vice and was recently named a “Woman You Should Know” by WYSK.com.
Allies in Action
September 7th, 2017-The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in collaboration with StrongHearts Native Helpline, and Mary Hudetz, criminal justice reporter for Associated Press, co-sponsored a training workshop at the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, CA. The workshop, “Covering Violence Against Native Women and Children” was attended by over 45 journalists and media professionals including student journalists.
The workshop included best practices to journalists to define what type of violence occurring, understanding historical context of violence against Native communities, jurisdictional issues, Violence Against Women Act, supreme court cases that involved domestic violence, missing and murdered native women and girls, survivor confidentiality and safety when interviewing, survivor resources including StrongHearts Native Helpline, and story ideas and pitches. Society of Professional Journalism student news reporter Casey Smith, created info graphics (see below) based off information presented in the workshop.
The 2017 Excellence in Journalism Conference was hosted by the Radio Television Digital News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, in cooperation with the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). The three-day conference included networking and recruitment opportunities for journalists, deep-dive training workshops, video and audio critiques, breakout sessions, and award ceremonies. To view the NAJA’s social media activity during the conference using @najournalists and #EIJ17 on Instagram and Twitter. To view the NAJA student newsroom activities visit naja.com/students/najf
On August 29th, 2017 NativeLove collaborated with StrongHearts Native Helpline and Generation Indigenous (Gen I) on a youth and youth advocate tweet circle “Dating Violence & Healthy Relationships.” Youth and youth organizations worked together to share resources and make a difference for addressing healthy youth dating relationships. Type in #IndigenousLove on Twitter to view & add to the conversation!
In its first six months of operation, the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) is supporting Native survivors of domestic violence and dating violence across Indian Country and in our Alaska Native villages. Launched in March, StrongHearts helps fulfill a great need to connect Native survivors with culturally rooted domestic violence services, which the helpline’s advocates aim to provide through indigenous-based advocacy.
StrongHearts, a partnered project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, initially focused its outreach efforts on tribal communities in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, but has since reached Native victims in need in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The team has also reached out to tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Mid-Year Conference and tribal housing allies at the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) Annual Convention this past summer.
Upcoming outreach events for StrongHearts include a domestic violence and sexual assault conference in Oklahoma (September 12-14), student and faculty workshops at Haskell Indian Nations University (September 21-23) in collaboration with NIWRC sister project Native Love, and the Four Corners Indian Country Conference in Arizona (September 25-27). See more events and join the conversation by liking StrongHearts’ Facebook page! You can also request brochures, posters and palm cards by filling out the online form here. Please share this much-needed resource with your communities!
StrongHearts Native Helpline is open Monday through Friday 9-5:30pm CST by calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483).
On August 31, 2017 a group of over 60 people from Sioux City and surrounding communities came together in remembrance of Savana La Fontaine Greywind and all Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The group consisted of many tribal communities and our Non -Indian allies. We started with a prayer, and two songs from the grandfather big drum. The first song was a southern song in UmoNhoN and the second song a northern song in Nakota. This represents the diversity across Indian Country and the communities at the event.
We had several youth attend the event, including many young women eager to offer help. We had tobacco and a red cloth available for participants to offer prayers. We then walked the red cloth to the river and offered her our prayers. The reason the prayers were offered to the water, is because Savanna was found in water and water sustained her baby in her womb. We stood at the river with our candles while a beautiful song was sung that spoke to our relatives in the stars. We had a female relative speak to women who die defending their children having a very special place in the spirit world.
Our speakers were members of the community who shared their stories related to Violence Against Native Women.
Our speakers included the following:
Marisa Miakonda Cummings, UmoNhoN, Organizer and Sioux City community member
Gloria Grant Gone- UmoNhoN elder
Michael O’Connor- Yankton Sioux and Sioux City community member
Sasha Rivers, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Sioux City community member
Samuel Grant, UmoNhoN and Sioux City community member
Marguerite Morris, UmoNhoN, Sioux City community member
Our singers included the following:
Samuel Grant- UmoNhoN
Canku Wakandgi- Ihanktonwan Nakoda
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center congratulates Mallory Black of the StrongHearts Native Helpline on receiving four Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) National Native Media Awards this year! Black (Navajo) is the first Communications Manager for the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE), a culturally-appropriate, confidential helpline for Native Americans affected by domestic violence and dating violence. Staffed by advocates with a strong understanding of Native cultures and traditions, StrongHearts is a partnered project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and NIWRC. Before joining the NIWRC-StrongHearts team, Black was a freelance writer for Native Peoples Magazine, the Native Health News Alliance, and served as Communications Specialist for the Division of Student Affairs at San Diego State University.
The annual National Native Media Awards recognize excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the U.S. and Canada. Black’s NAJA awards are as follows:
- PRINT-BEST FEATURE STORY-FIRST PLACE, Unlearning Cultural Misrepresentation, Native Peoples Magazine (Professional Division III-Monthly/Semimonthly)
- PRINT-BEST FEATURE STORY-SECOND PLACE, Without Home, But Not Less, Native Peoples Magazine (Professional Division III-Monthly/Semimonthly)
- ONLINE-BEST HEALTH COVERAGE-SECOND PLACE, Making Small Changes for Healthier Families, Native Health News Alliance (Professional Division III)
- ONLINE-BEST HEALTH COVERAGE-THIRD PLACE, Prioritizing Physical Activity for Native American Students, Native Health News Alliance (Professional Division III)
Black accepted the awards at the NAJA National Native Media Awards Banquet during the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California, on September 7-10, 2017. During the conference, Black co-presented a session with NIWRC called “Covering Violence Against Native Women and Children” and spoke on a panel called “Health and Nutrition Reporting in Indian Country: Covering An Underreported Crisis.”
“Watching the movie (Wind River) was intense. So many things run through your mind, you’re fact checking, you’re running legal analysis on jurisdiction and case law, your emotions are overwhelmed. I think at the end of it, I just remembered that the lived experience of many of our Indigenous sisters is what this movie is attempting to portray. The complicit-ness of our federal government, of companies and corporations, of towns all adds up to one thing: genocide is an ongoing story in our tribal nations. Genocide is not a thing of the past, though that history is certainly complicit in it’s perpetuation as well.
Watching it with the NCAI group in Washington D.C. was difficult because so many people in the room have been fighting to end violence in our communities for so long and so many of those seated in the audience were indigenous as well. I think the movie sort of had an emotional toll on everyone. When it was my turn to speak, though I was supposed to give a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) update, I found myself speaking to those pieces. Rape and murder are not an epidemic in our communities; they are continuously utilized tools of genocide. I spoke to our resilience and to the barriers our resilience, often tested by jurisdiction, lack of resources, and degradation of tribal sovereignty to name a few. I advocated for a full Oliphant fix and for a reminder that the realization of capacity, this will be about a strengthening of our sovereignty and the commitment the government must have regarding its trust responsibility to our Nations.”
–Caroline LaPorte, Senior Native Affairs Policy Advisor for NIWRC
Explore more of Wind River:
- WATCH-ATTN: video partnership with Wind River filmmakers-“Sexual Violence Against Native American Women“
- READ-Indian Country Today film review- “Movie Review: Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’ is Gripping, Realistic and Beautifully-Crafted.“
- WATCH-Wind River trailer:
The Wellness Circle
For many tribes, the circle or Medicine Wheel is a powerful symbol. It has representations of the four directions (or more/less quadrants depending on the tribe) and is a powerful traditional tool for healing. These quadrants can also symbolize the four seasons, four (or more) directions, stages of our lifespan (baby, child, adult, elder), and the make-up of fluid and natural healthy life-ways (the balance of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual).
While in advocacy and activism of the anti-violence and social justice movements, we can feel it is emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually engaging. Creative Wellness is another way to process this Sacred work we do for our families, our communities, tribes and nations. Creative Wellness is not meant to be intimidating for those who may not feel ‘artistically inclined”. Creative Wellness can come in forms we already engage in. These can be tactile arts (painting, drawing, beading, quilling, looming, sketching, etc.), visual arts (digital, film, photography, writing), audio arts (singing, drumming, music, spoken word, flutes, instruments), and culinary arts (cooking for your family, community, sharing of traditional foods, or…. for the cook shack!). All of the Creative Wellness activities simply caress our hearts and spirits in different and very personal ways such as: a calming moment of introspection, a boost of bravery, or compassion or healing when we are hurting (or those are hurting around us). Your Creative Wellness can take care of you, your family and community, and is often a way to express love and inspire those around us. ‘Justice Art’ and ‘Cultural Pop Art’ reaches youth in a way that InfoGraphs and FactSheets may not, Music the way stories may not. Creative Wellness links generations together.
These Creative Wellness skills can flex our personal strengths and intra-community resiliency. It can mean different things to different people.
The definition of Art Therapy or in a cultural sense, Creative Wellness, is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
Our ancestors practiced each of these creative ways and each way can be healing by directly connected to our past. Technical and medical Western Art Therapy is used in working with youth and adults of all ability or Disability as is a process to heal and reduce the pain of certain experiences, such as PTSD. Native people have been doing this since the beginning (as even found in storytelling and ancient cave drawings). As we become more engaged with our own ways of Creative Wellness, we learn that without the pressures of “Being an Artist”, we already express ourselves artistically, work through our behaviors, problem-solve our own feelings, eliminate stress, improve self-esteem, and connect this to our work. In our work, we can raise awareness to issues while practicing Native wellness.
This benefits both the artist and those we share our Creative Wellness with. And most importantly link our daily lives to the value of our own traditional Creative Wellness as it directly links us to our ancestors.
-Rebecca Balog, NIWRC
More Resources for Wellness:
- EXPLORE: 4 Ways to Take Accountability for Your Life and Actions After Trauma. “We can not control everything that happens in the world. We can only control how we respond to situations like trauma. There is a process of natural human emotions such as denial, anger, and depression after someone has hurt us. However, you will eventually come to a crossroad where you must chose to begin healing, or do further damage to your mind, body, and spirit. Healing will not choose you, you must choose it.”
- DOWNLOAD: Self compassion pause.