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Breaking the Cycle at Holbrook Indian School Céleste Perrino-Walker

J

ovannah Poor Bear was desperate to escape the life of poverty and abuse she knew on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest reservations in the United States. She was part of the Crazy Horse Clan of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), one of the seven sub-tribes of the Lakota people who make up the Great Sioux Nation along with the Dakota and Nakota. The level of poverty she experienced was unimaginable to most people. Beginning at the age of 8, she endured sexual abuse for years. One of her step-dads molested her for two years, and Jovannah was afraid that her mother would be mad at her for not saying anything or for pretending to be asleep when it happened. When an older cousin raped her, Jovannah tried to make

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him stop. “You’re hurting me!” she told him. “I’m getting you ready to be an adult,” the cousin said. Being an adult hurts, Jovannah reasoned. In her mind, that hurt was just something you had to deal with. It was something that simply happened, and it would happen all through your life. People would hurt you. They would use your body for themselves for the rest of your life. That was the way things would be, and you just had to deal with it. But at the age of 14 she heard about Holbrook Indian School (HIS), a boarding school for Native American youth, grades one through twelve. The goal of HIS, Jovannah learned, was to support students on the path of healing and restoration. Holbrook’s goal was to heal these students and help them claim their identity, their

culture, and their faith. She found a ride in the back of a pickup truck and made the long journey to Holbrook, Arizona. Holbrook quickly became her sanctuary. It was the first time in her life she could remember not being afraid to go to sleep at night. While at Holbrook, Jovannah was inspired to go to college, but to do so she had to get good grades. She was getting As in all of her classes except Bible. Someone suggested that she join a Bible study group to help bring up her grade. But Jovannah had no interest in the Christian religion. In fact, she had been taught to hate it. For her, as for many Native Americans, Christianity was something to distrust. Most of the damage done to indigenous people throughout North America had been done in the name of Christianity.

Profile for Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Pacific Union Recorder—October 2018  

Living God's Love: Divine Certainties in a puzzling world; the horizon is marked; God with us; Sabbath: Sunset or Sonrise?

Pacific Union Recorder—October 2018  

Living God's Love: Divine Certainties in a puzzling world; the horizon is marked; God with us; Sabbath: Sunset or Sonrise?