Keith, you and I don't need to quibble at the ubiquity of violence that seeks women in our culture. We know it is a reality. And in the American Indian Reservations, this violence flourishes in disproportionate numbers. And consequences for those who would harm these women—as well as protection and justice—withers, caught between indifference, legal complications, and/or hostility. There are at least shelters on-rez for them. It's not a cure. But it is something. A place to go to be safe, to learn, to find some comfort and figure out what to do next.
Except when there is no money for such a place. Then, where could these women hope to find help?
The Story of Pretty Bird Woman House
Jackie Brown Otter created The Pretty Bird Woman House after the brutal rape and murder of her sister, whose Lakota name means Pretty Bird Woman.
PBWH provides emergency shelter, advocacy support, and educational programs for women on the Standing Rock reservation who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Its services are badly needed; according to the Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice - The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA:High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime. South Dakota has the highest poverty rate for Native American women in the USA with 45.3 per cent living in poverty. The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of "forcible rapes" of women of any US state.
Making things worse, Standing Rock Reservation has a tiny police force to patrol all 2.3 million acres. At the time of the murder of Pretty Bird Woman, Standing Rock had only one police officer on duty during the night shift. As a result, it took over a day for anyone to even come out to start to investigate the disappearance.
Pretty Bird Woman House was in trouble. Its future existence was in doubt. Until grassroots internet activism began rallying support and dollars. If people continue to give, then the abused and desperate women of the Sioux Standing Rock Reservation will have a place to go when all else falls away for them (the new house is not bought yet, so all is not over). And this is inspiring, and very hopeful.
But this problem is not limited to this one reservation or house. Sadly, this is a massive ill affecting so many of those who once lived on this land without laws handed down from others, laws that don't even protect them. And women in their culture, as well as ours, still struggle for the most basic of human rights.
each rez has one
I've read about the help being given to PBWH and I also think Olbermann would be a good reporter if you can get him. The sad thing is that each and every rez in South Dakota has an under funded, desperate woman’s house that is struggling to survive on pitiful funds. Some on larger reservations where the needs are even greater, at least in numbers, than Cheyenne River.
Here where I live on Rosebud, the "White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman’s Society" is doing the same hard job on very limited resources. Tribes are doing what they can but with winter coming on they'll be spending their discretionary funds on heating needs. Private and foundation funding is hard to get and even harder to maintain for the long run, yet the needs are increasing with the population.
Welfare reform has been a disaster on the rez because the poverty is endemic in a population where 75% of the population is unemployed. We're seeing an epidemic of child suicides and other social ills all of which can be traced to the grinding poverty and its lack of a solution.
I hope someone like Olberman can use the PBWH to highlight the whole problem.
—I Want Olbermann to Cover Pretty Bird Woman House
So, Keith. This is the official Nezua Request Line ringing ya in hopes that you will cover Pretty Woman Bird House, and the violence against women, as well as the growing poverty problems in the Indian Reservations that this symbolizes. A whole slathering of justice to be done here. Come on, vato. I love your stuff, but honestly, anyone can rage on Bush. That's not daring anymore, it's pretty much hot fashion by now. (And it's beginning to feel a wee bit...frothy.) So shine that big ole light of yours into a corner where harm is doing its work in the dark.
And of course, we can always ask Keith ourselves.
Gracias, Señores y Señoras. And you too, Keith.
• Amnesty International Report-Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA
• Winter Rabbit's Journal
• Pretty Bird Woman House
Crossposted at The Unapologetic Mexican, Culture Kitchen, and Corrente.