-- 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.
not just mentoring women, everyone is coming," said Faith Spotted
Eagle, Ihanktonwan Nakota Oyate, among the cofounders.
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.
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.
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.
lot of our women are very angry. We call it red rage," she
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.
first step in resolving trauma is to name it," Spotted Eagle
said to name it, is to call it by its name: "I have been raped,
or I have been hurt."
is where the healing begins.
find you are not alone, and find what path you need to be on, is
to reclaim your own spirit," she said.
Eagle said, "The retreats restore the sisterhood, because women
have been acting like men, as in the white society.
of the women have found codependency training helpful.
are addicted to substances, relationships and unhealthy lifeways
because we think there is no other way," Spotted Eagle said.
challenge is to break free of codependency.
all goes back to healing and building better self-esteem,"
the traditional culture, are the healing remedies.
cultures have remedies for all of us," she said.
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.
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.
want the families to start doing it," Spotted Eagle said.
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.
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
Eagle said the Braveheart Society also planted a garden for the
purpose of food sovereignty.
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
the National Congress of American Indians Exhibit Hall, Spotted
Eagle had a reunion with young Native woman whose life she touched
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.
Eagle says it was basically the story of her life.
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
whole event was really powerful. The benefit for me was healing,"
in Washington State, she remembers, One woman just sat and cried.
I remember thinking, Wow, this really touched her.
lot of the people who received it were able to say, Thats me."
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.
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.
those performances years ago of The Story of an Alcoholic Family,
are today apart of Simeons makeup.
contributed to who I am," she said.
Eagle said the Braveheart Society has a primary focus.
mend that hoop."