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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 10, 2004 - Issue 104


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Braveheart Society, Restoring Native Sisterhood

credits: Faith Spotted Eagle (left) talks with Monica Simeon, among the young Native women Spotted Eagle has mentored, at the National Congress of American Indians. Photo Brenda Norrell

Faith Spotted Eagle (left) talks with Monica Simeon, among the young Native women Spotted Eagle has mentored, at the National Congress of American Indians. Photo Brenda NorrellALBUQUERQUE -- When the Braveheart Society began for grandmothers to mentor Yankton Sioux girls in South Dakota, they did not know that the Societys roots, like the roots of an Aspen tree, would extend throughout the community, bringing new life in unexpected ways.

"Were not just mentoring women, everyone is coming," said Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Nakota Oyate, among the cofounders.

Spotted Eagle spoke of the Braveheart Society during an interview at the National Congress of American Indians 60th Annual Convention, where she participated in efforts to protect the Missouri River Basin and other sacred lands.

The Braveheart Society began with a retreat to inspire girls. But after four days of hearing the girls tell their own stories of trauma, molestation and incest, the women knew this would only be the beginning of the long road ahead.

Spotted Eagle said the girls could not heal until they found their spiritual center and came full circle. In order to heal, the girls needed a healing area.

"A lot of our women are very angry. We call it red rage," she said.

The Braveheart Society has now carried out nine retreats. Each fall the girls and women, from age 14 to elderly, return to the Black Hills for the healing work, which involves awareness and role models.

"The first step in resolving trauma is to name it," Spotted Eagle said.

She said to name it, is to call it by its name: "I have been raped, or I have been hurt."

This is where the healing begins.

"To find you are not alone, and find what path you need to be on, is to reclaim your own spirit," she said.

Spotted Eagle said, "The retreats restore the sisterhood, because women have been acting like men, as in the white society.

"Many of the women have found codependency training helpful.

"We are addicted to substances, relationships and unhealthy lifeways because we think there is no other way," Spotted Eagle said.

The challenge is to break free of codependency.

"It all goes back to healing and building better self-esteem," she said.

Within the traditional culture, are the healing remedies.

"Our cultures have remedies for all of us," she said.

Spotted Eagle points out that modern science is now discovering what Native people have long known. Scientists are now saying that when you smudge, the molecules around you change.

The Braveheart Societys trauma work includes the coming of age ceremony, which 47 girls have gone through. But Spotted Eagle said the Society will carry out the ceremony for only eight years, and then the communities will carry it on.

"We want the families to start doing it," Spotted Eagle said.

Along with the trauma work is the Water Lily Storytelling Institute, which is also known as How to be a good relative. Storytellers tell the stories, rather than the stories being read from a book, to children and youths. The great storytellers have included Mary Louise Defender, Yankton Sioux from Standing Rock. Winter stories are shared before spring comes and the Thunder Beings.

There has also been an unexpected component of the Braveheart Society. It is the education of young boys, who have come with their mothers or grandmothers to the gatherings. Now they are being instructed in walking in the way of a being a good relative, such as defending sacred lands.

Spotted Eagle said the Braveheart Society also planted a garden for the purpose of food sovereignty.

"If everything stops, we should be able to feed our people." Using an Israeli drip system, they began with one acre and will expand to two acres. Plans are now underway to begin a sports clothing line. Even though they work for self-esteem and self-sufficiency, she said they have not been successful in attracting adequate funding support.

Inside the National Congress of American Indians Exhibit Hall, Spotted Eagle had a reunion with young Native woman whose life she touched years ago.

Monica Simeon, Spokane tribal member, embraced Spotted Eagle as she remembered acting in the play Spotted Eagle created. Performed in the 1980s, based in Washington State, it was The Story of an Alcoholic Family.

Spotted Eagle says it was basically the story of her life.

While a sophomore at the University of Washington, Simeon played the rebellious teenage daughter in the alcoholic family. Simeon remembers the tears, which surfaced during the performances in tribal community centers and schools, in the Northwest and Northern Plains, in towns like Marty, S.D.

"The whole event was really powerful. The benefit for me was healing," Simeon said.

"Once, in Washington State, she remembers, One woman just sat and cried. I remember thinking, Wow, this really touched her.

"A lot of the people who received it were able to say, Thats me."

Spotted Eagle also remembers the highlights, and the sadness of some who attended the performances, including one young woman, in denial about physical abuse. Excusing the abuse, the young woman said, He just taps me.

Simeon is now co-owner with sister Marina Turning Robe of a natural bath and body product line Sister Sky, which sprang from her own creations to care for her sons skin.

Still, those performances years ago of The Story of an Alcoholic Family, are today apart of Simeons makeup.

"It contributed to who I am," she said.

Spotted Eagle said the Braveheart Society has a primary focus.

"To mend that hoop."

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