Faith leaders, tribal officials, and musicians from two states are battling tribal domestic violence, teen suicide, and sexual assault by supporting the nation’s first battered woman’s progam for Native Americans through a free benefit concert at a church in Custer, South Dakota.
WHAT:Free benefit concert for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society in South Dakota, a battered women’s shelter for native american women.
WHEN: August 12, 2007, 5:00p.m.
WHERE: Custer Lutheran Fellowship Church, Custer, South Dakota
As tribal teen suicide, sexual assault and domestic violence against Native Americans grows at an alarming rate, organizers believe it’s time to help the battered woman’s shelter continue its many projects to protect victims, including dealing with teenage depression.
Two Michigan folk groups will perform at 5 p.m. (MT) on August 12, 2007 at the Custer Lutheran Fellowship church in Custer, S.D. Comprised of family and close friends, White Water and Duo Borealis are based in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula and are known for their unique folk music.
Organizers hope people will be inspired to donate money to the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS) that provides a wide-range of domestic violence services for all women and children and has served the Rosebud Indian Reservation for almost 30 years.
The shelter and church are over 220 miles from each other, and the concert was suggested by a pastor friend of both located nearly 1,000 miles to the east in northern Michigan. The concert is coordinated by people who live long distances apart but are close on the issue of protecting domestic violence victims.
Without reservation, faith leaders and tribal officials believe it’s important to battle domestic violence.
“Supporting a shelter on the Rosebud Indian Reservation is particularly important and life-giving,” said Rev. Dave Van Kley, Custer Lutheran Fellowship church pastor.
The battered women and children’s shelter was founded in 1980 by current director Tillie Black Bear who then hoped domestic violence would be significantly reduced if not stopped by the end of the century. Sadly, she says, domestic violence has increased.
“Violence against tribal women and children is at a crisis state,” said Tillie Black Bear. “We must stand together to end violence in the lives of our women and children.”
Rosebud tribal officials and the WBCWS have declared a state of emergency on teen suicides – because in just the past two years, more than 400 suicide attempts have occurred on the reservation. Ten of those were successful – most teenage boys.
Black Bear says the reasons vary in each case including drugs, alcohol, poverty, depression and other social problems.
On the Rosebud Reservation alone, eleven rapes were reported in 2006, and at least 10 had been reported through May 31, 2007, the Rosebud Tribal Police Department reported.
American Indians were sexual assault victims at 3.5 times the rate of other United States residents and the rate of all violent crime against Native American women is 50 times higher than other races, the U.S. Justice Department reports. About 90 percent of American Indian sexual assault victims reported an offender of a different race and nearly a third of all American Indian victims were between the ages of 18 and 24, the report states.
While statistics reflect an alarming rate of sexual violence in Indian Country, some experts believe many American Indian sexual assaults are not reported because of family reprisal, shame and other cultural oppression, Black Bear said.
Overlapping and confusing federal, state and tribal legal jurisdictions can hinder investigations and prosecutions, thus discouraging Native American women from reporting the sexual violence “and leaves them feeling helpless and fearful,” she said.
Black Bear said the “historical oppression and complicated jurisdictional issues have negatively impacted sexual assault victims by increasing their mistrust, by discouraging the reporting of crimes and often by providing little recourse for timely justice.”
Black Bear believes providing education and resources to youth is crucial to teach that “violence and sexual assault in not okay under any circumstances” and “they are not alone, there is help and they are able to get it.”
Some youth are confused about “the romantic notion of love” and that may “prevent them from reporting date rape and other assault incidents,” Black Bear said.
The WBCWS continues to battle domestic violence in three areas:
- Increasing safety for victims thought education and strong public statements
- Providing a safe place to live, and
- Advocating changes in policies, laws, and services that women and their children can access for their safety and well being.
“Safety is a priority in all that we do on behalf of our sisters who experience violence – whether it is domestic violence or sexual violence,” Black Bear said. “When safety is unattainable our sisters and their children experience trauma, and ultimately – an untimely death.”
Tribal and community leaders should stand firmly against the abuse of women and children
“This includes clear and strong public statements. It is imperative that our relatives, communities, leadership and advocates stand together and in strength denounce that violence against our women and children is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Tillie Black Bear, adding that even when victims believe they have found safety “there is never any guarantee that – as a woman – you are safe from domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Sometimes abusers get homicidal when victims leave their clutches
“We know that women leaving their abuser are at a greater risk and that there is a higher rate of incidence of murdered women leaving their abuser,” Tillie Black Bear said.
“Safety for women and children requires a safe place to keep them safe – and out of harm’s way – and that their own and relative’s homes may not be an option,” she said.
“Indigenous people know that we are all related and interconnected in sacred ways,” Black Bear said. “All individuals within a community are, therefore, responsible for providing safety to women and children and holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions.”
Domestic violence murders claim many more lives than the latest victim because “when a child or woman is killed that affects the generations to come,” Tillie Black Bear said.
“We have a responsibility as tribal people to make sure that we continue to create a world that our future generations of relatives will want to come and be safe in,” Black Bear said. “When a woman is killed, it is like whipping our most sacred bundles.”
Native Americans must “reframe our views of our female relatives” and “believe that our women and children are sacred,” she said.
The church has helped fight domestic violence by supporting the Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) domestic violence shelter in Custer and projects on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“We believe that God calls us to be in relationship with all people,” Rev. Van Kley said.
The church and shelter are both in the southern part of the state, with Custer Lutheran Fellowship on the western border and the WBCWS is centrally located – and while separated by a three-and-a-half hour drive, they share common issues including ending domestic violence and helping victims.
A friend of both, Rev. Lynn Hubbard moved to northern Michigan a few years ago and recently asked the music groups to stop in South Dakota to perform a free concert while returning from a tour of the western U.S.
Rev. Hubbard said he’s impressed with the effort of the battered women’s shelter and concerned that women around the world continue to be beaten and murdered every day.
Domestic violence is literally America’s black eye
As the abuse is prevalent in all segments of society, the violence crosses all lines – social, economic, race, creed,” said Rev. Hubbard, founder of the Turtle Island Project that addresses Native American and environment issues.
“The Turtle Island Project recognizes 30 years of excellent community service by the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society and its domestic violence shelter,” said Rev. Hubbard, pastor of the Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising, Michigan.
Hubbard said the Michigan musicians are eager to put on the free concert because they hope the community will help support the WBCWS shelter.
“We also thank the northern Michigan music groups – White Water & Duo Borealis for agreeing to hold the August 12 benefit concert in Custer, South Dakota,” Rev. Hubbard said.
The Custer Lutheran Fellowship pastor said his church appreciates the folk bands’ willingness to help people they have never met.
“Folk music is truly the music of the people–of all people–and so is an excellent choice for a fundraising effort for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society,” said Rev. Van Kley. “The fact that White Water, a superb traditional folk group, has offered to perform a free concert for this purpose, adds to our excitement about this event.”
The shelter provides emergency homes to all domestic violence victims and provides of counseling and services including a Women’s Support Group, meetings for sexual assault survivors, and men’s re-education project.
Domestic Violence Is Not A Lakota Tradition
The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc – Shelter & Safe Home available for emergencies, and weekly support groups:
Women’s Support Group
Mon. & Wed., 7-8pm Sat. 11am-12pm
Sexual Assault Survivors
Every Monday 2-3pm
Men’s Re-Education Group
Every Wednesday 6:30-7:30pm
For Men’s Program, please call (605)856-4666
If you’d like to donate or have questions about the concert contact:
White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.
Tillie Black Bear, director
North Main St.
You can call the shelter at: 605-856-2317
The benefit concert is at 5 pm (MT) on August 12, 2007 at the Custer Lutheran Fellowship, a Custer, S.D. Church located three and one half miles east of Custer on U.S. Highway 16A.
While the concert is free, donations are gladly accepted.
For more information on the bands and others involved in the concert here are some related web sites:
U.S. Department of Justice report: “American Indians and Crime”