Friday, November 28, 2008

Women, Rape and Poverty in Indian Country

Last year the progressive blogsphere did a wonderful thing. We saved a woman's shelter on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Amnesty International published a report that became the focus of a series of Daily Kos diaries. The jist of the Amnesty International report is that, one in three Native American women are victims of rape...and most of those rapes are committed by outsiders, not fellow Native Americans. This Daily Kos article covers some pretty nasty aspects of American law covering Native Americans that allow this kind of crime to thrive with almost no consequences. Many laws relating to American/Native relations were written in the 19th century during a period of extreme abuse by the dominant American culture against Native cultures...and many of those laws are still in force.

Related to this was the fate of a woman's shelter called Pretty Bird Woman House. This shelter, one of the few facilities set up to help those one out of three Native American women who are raped, mostly by outsiders, was about to close due to lack of funds. Daily Kos, for all its faults, can do wonders. In no time a site was set up to collect funds for the Pretty Bird Women shelter, and within days thousands of dollars were raised, saving it from immanent closing. But then vandalism nearly closed the house again due to a lack of security. Ultimately, Daily Kos and the rest of the progressive blogsphere raised enough money to help purchase a house and home security system for the shelter.

Even now the progressive blogshere is working to keep this shelter supplied and to buy them a new heating system. As long as rape remains a major problem, women's shelters will need out help. From Daily Kos:

Many of you know the story of Kossacks' involvement with saving the Pretty Bird Woman House, which is a women's shelter on the South Dakota side of the Standing Rock Reservation. Last fall we conducted a fundraiser thatraised enough money to buy the shelter an entire new house. Since this week is the beginning of the holiday giving season, I want to give you an update on the shelter and some ideas for donating if you are so inclined...

First, for everyone who donated to the furnace fund drive that we didin memory of Joe Biden's mother-in-law, Bonny Jean Jacobs...We had enough money for the new furnace by the third week in October.I had promised to send the letter before the end of the campaign, and I just squeaked in with it on November 3. Unfortunately, my own mother died of pancreatic cancer just as the fundraiser was ending, so that was the best I could do. The new furnace was installed on November 12th. YAY everybody. Now the women will be warm this winter. They were all SO psyched to get it. A few people have been wondering what they can do for the shelter around the holidays.

Here are a few ideas.

1. Contribute to the general fund The shelter always needs money for expenses that aren't covered by grants (everything is tax deductible).

2. Contribute to the gift card fund for the shelter staff. Women's shelters are always underfunded and the staff underpaid. There is no money for bonuses ever, so if you'd like to see the staff get a few extra prezzies this year, contribute here. I will go buy Visa gift cards from the local bank, so they can use them anywhere they please.

3. Buy some towels. Right now the shelter is having a towel and wash cloth shortage because it lets women coming and going take their towels with them. Anna's Linen online seems to have really good prices. Other general items that are always needed are:

Twin and queen size sheets and blankets, toothbrushes andtoothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, women's hygiene items, diapers of all sizes, baby wipes, first aid kit items, and analgesics such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Address to send items and checks:

Pretty Bird Woman House
211 First Ave W.
McLaughlin, SD 57642

4. FREE things you can do. The economy sucks, I know,and I for one am one of the Kossacks out of work (don't feel sorry for me, I just handed in a dissertation, so I'm hopeful for the future).There are 2 things you can do that I would call passive giving.

Sign up for: iGive If you do this, whenever you shop at what seems to now be most online stores, the store will donate a percentage of your purchase to the shelter. Everybody has to shop for the holidays, so if you shop online, this is the way to go. Since last year we've raised over $300 in this kind of passive giving, just with 60 people on the list. Imagine of we had 300 people on it?

If you download this GoodSearch bar and use it when you do a search,they will donate 2 cents for each search. That adds up, especially if there are a lot of people doing the searches. Since last year, we've raised $118 on GoodSearch. Passive giving, I like it!

5. Buy Christmas presents for women and children who will be at the shelter. I've been talking to the shelter director about this, but one of the staff just quit so right now she's having a hard time keeping her head above water. Here are some good ideas from another shelter director.

Don't forget socks, underwear and sweats! As a shelter director, I can tell you this - the women & kids who arethere right now, will probably not be there by Christmas I always tell generous donors to send gifts that you and your family members would like to receive for a Christmas present. So, if you are an adult woman, you might want a nice robe or pajamas,slippers or perfume or a long distance calling card or a beautiful warm neck scarf with matching hat & gloves for the winter, a watch, or a clock radio or a nice new hair dryer or straightener or culring iron, diaries, journals, wallets, backpacks, picture frames, photo albums. The majority of children in shelter are between the ages of 2 and 12 with all ages sprinkled in, so legos and action figures are good for boys, coloring books, word puzzles books, games, decks of cards,dolls/barbies of all cultures, leapster learning toys, anything Disney, Bratz, Dora & Diego, Sponge Bob. Don't forget about the batteries if you purchase a gift that requires batteries, please send them with the gift! For the tweens & teens, hand held games, travel games, music by Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Cheetah Girls, sleeping bags, blankets, backpacks, belts, hand bags, cosmetics, hair accessories, small suitcases on wheels, disposable cameras are so cheap these days! Gift cards are always great for all - food, clothing, gas cards, phonecards, shoes. Keep the candles for yourself - it is not usually safe to burn candlesin a shelter home but the temptation is so great if you have one! When thinking shelter, remember storage is at a premium so think smaller, more portable gifts.

The Pretty Bird Woman House operates at capacity nearly all the time. One of their staff just quit (too much stress), and they are quite over their heads right now with the work load. Thanks to YOU this shelter exists. Without you, the women on the Standing Rock Reservation wouldn't have any place to go if they are victims of domestic violence. You are amazing.

PS. We'll need to keep this diary going to raise holiday funds. Feel free to take any of this material as your own to keep it posted.

I still donate from time to time to Pretty Bird Woman House. But the need is far bigger than just one shelter and I do feel like the strong support for just one shelter is missing the big picture. I came across another program and shelter that I make it a point to support whenever I donate to Pretty Bird Woman Shelter, and I hope others will help out this program as well.

I would like to highlight another Women's shelter and health center in the Sioux Nation that could use help. The Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center was set up on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in 1988 and added a women's shelter in 1991. Here's a bit about what they do:

The Resource Center has expanded to include many programs benefitting people locally, nationally, and internationally. Some examples are the Domestic Violence Program, AIDS Prevention Program, Youth Services which include the Child Development Program and the Youth Wellness Program, Adult Learning Program, Environmental Awareness and Action Project, Cancer Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Program, Clearinghouse of Educational Materials, Food Pantry, Wicozanni Wowapi Newsletter, Diabetic Nutrition Program, Scholarships for Native American Women, Reproductive Health and Rights, "Green Thumb" Project, and Community Health Fairs.

This is another center that needs support in another part of the Sioux Nation. They support themselves by selling items to support the center. Purchases made through this site will support their efforts.

I also feel that poverty is one of the main reasons for many of the social problems on Indian Reservations. So I introduce ways for people to help Native Americans economically. Economically, too often Native Americans face rampant unemployment, or work catering to a tourist industry either through casinos or trinket stores. I have two suggestions to build Native Americans' economic strength. First there is Native American Bank. Obviously if you are looking for a neighborhood bank this probably won't help you. But for a Certificate of Deposit, online banking, or some loans, where you don't need a nearby branch, you can do your banking while helping build an economically strong Indian Country. Here is the Dream this bank is built on:

In 2001, twenty Tribal Nations and Alaskan Native Corporations set out with a dream “ to create a national bank to serve all Native people, communities, governments and enterprises across the country” and established Native American Bank, N.A. (NAB).

NAB recognizes that among the many issues facing Native Americans, the absence of access to financial capital and services has been a significant impediment towards the realization of self-sufficiency and financial freedom across Indian Country.

Here are their locations, and here are some of their services. If you are looking for a bank, particularly for online banking, please consider patronizing the Native American Bank.

My second economic suggestion goes along with my continuing focus on Global Warming solutions. Native Energy is a group that seeks to build alternative, green energy production on Native American land (and on American farms), providing jobs, energy and an economy for Native Americans WHILE also weaning America from its oil addiction. Here are their current and past projects. Al Gore and his family offset their entire carbon footprint through Native Energy. So do I (at least in part...I also use other carbon offset programs focused in Israel, Africa, and Central America). You can too. For an average of $12/month (those of us in NYC average only $4/month!) you can offset your personal carbon footprint by investing in alternative energy projects through Native Energy. This could be one of the most significant things you can do to mitigate global warming, and you will be creating a real, solid economy for Native Americans in the process.

I hope this helps to link Immigrant America with Native America and to help build a stronger Indian Country. Such a strengthening would help reduce the abuse that Amnesty International recently revealed.

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