Every single day there are women being abused in our communities. Children are also being hurt. Our little ones have very fragile minds, bodies and spirits.
Many believe that children don’t remember what happens to them after they have grown up. But an abused child remembers enough of how it felt to be hurt and will most likely become an adult who regularly inflicts pain upon others. When parents fight in front of their little ones they are committing violence against their own children.
In my opinion, emotional illnesses are a major root cause of violence. For instance, anger can be an emotional illness if it is not processed in a healthy manner. Anger which gets bottled up inside certain people is often expressed in violent acts. Many Lakota people are regular victims to violent acts on the Rez.
Have you ever wondered how many of these violent acts are due to the inner anger many people refuse to let go? I believe many of our people are incarcerated because they chose to swallow their anger instead of finding a constructive way to process feelings of rage. Unchecked anger will eventually come out in full force and often results in a crime violent enough to warrant a prison term.
I believe the most important awareness activity observed in October is that of Domestic Violence. There is rampant domestic violence across this land. If you think otherwise then you are in denial. Women, men, teenagers and children suffer from violent acts of physical, mental, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse on a daily basis. This abuse often comes at the hands of close family members who live under the same roof.
Victims of domestic violence should seek help right away. Do not continue to risk your emotional, sexual, mental, spiritual or physical wellbeing to stay with your abuser. Abuse is not love. You are worth more than the abuser wants you to believe. Get away now! It is not worth putting your life or your children’s lives in danger by staying with a violent person.
In 2010 President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act into law. This law was supposed to give our tribes more power to enforce existing tribal laws against violence and abuse. Also, this law was supposed to give our tribal court and police departments more power to arrest and sentence offenders to appropriate jail terms.
Some of you mistakenly think this law was based solely on statistics gleaned from off reservation sources. I’m not sure where you get your information but you are wrong. The level of violence committed within the borders of the Rez is staggering. There currently exists enough statistics right here at home to create several more laws aimed at protecting our people from violent acts.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe received $25 million dollars in stimulus money to build a new jail. The Oglala Sioux Tribe also received $42 million in recovery act funding to construct a new justice center. I hear a lot of you saying we don’t need new jails and that the money would be put to better use with jobs along with more youth programs.
Of course, I agree more money for jobs, along with activities for the young people would be great. But until people learn some self-control, jails will always be there to lock up offenders who continue to violate the law and one another. Some say the federal government won’t be happy until all of our people are locked away in prison. The only way to close the jails and prisons down is to stop committing the crimes which will put you there.
Domestic and other forms of ugly violence are taking place every day on the Rez. Our tribal governments are responsible to some extent in providing public safety to our members. Rosebud has laws against domestic violence. The law and order code reads in part:
“It is the intent of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council that the official response to cases of domestic abuse shall be that violent behavior is not to be excused or tolerated, whether or not the abuser is intoxicated. Furthermore, it is the intent of the Tribal Council that criminal laws be enforced without regard to whether the persons involved are family members, were or are married, cohabiting, or involved in a relationship. It is also the intent of the Tribal Council that the Elders of this tribe be cherished and protected according to the traditions of the tribe.”
Many of you have seen the life sized red silhouettes on display at the Rosebud Hospital. There is also a red silhouette in the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council Chambers. These stark reminders of the violence that exists on the Rez were placed there by the members of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc. Those silent witnesses to domestic violence are all accompanied by captions.
Each one of these silent witnesses is placed for a Lakota woman who was an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and who was murdered by her husband or domestic partner. The silent witnesses at the Rosebud Hospital are in memory of Nida Mae Kills In Sight- Eagle Elk, Victoria “Vicki” Eagleman, Lavina Holy Eagle and Carol Ann Swan. The silent witness at the Rosebud Tribal office is in memory of Cheryl “Cowgirl” Tail Feathers.
I believe many of you would agree with me when I say perpetrators who succumb to their inner anger to the point where they kill the people they supposedly love deserve incarceration. How else are we to be safe in our own homes? Many Lakota women who loved and stayed with an angry man were murdered by him.
Please learn to release your anger in a good way. Don’t take out your frustrations on your companion or children. Put down the alcohol and face each day in sobriety with the resolve to love your family. Our children need the strength of loving parents.