Shawn White Wolf Edition 1, Vol 1;Shawn White Wolf The American Indian Digital Magazine is published weekly. Permission has been granted by the authors of the writings that are included in each edition. Specific contributorâ€™s upto-date information is included on the ShawnWhiteWolf.com website. Publisher Shawn White Wolf www.shawnwhitewolf.com All Rights Reserved 1/30/2014
The writers express their own views and opinions. They are not the views or opinions of Shawn White Wolf. Likewise, the authors are not responsible for any content published by Shawn White Wolf.
By Shawn White Wolf Remembering Dolly One of my proudest moments in my journalism career was when the Dolly Cusker Akers story ran on the front page of the Independent Record. The story had gone untold in decades. It was critical time in Montana history. State Senator Carol Juneau, D-Browing, was fighting to get the Indian Education for All Act funded. Passed in the early 1970s, the act was long forgotten and shelved. Getting this legislation meant times were changing for the 70,000 some Indian living on and off reservations. The political atmosphere was exciting and electric around the Montana Capitol. The Dolly story has always amazed me. She did what most women would never imagine doing in the early 1900s, she spoke up. She went with a Montana delegation to Washington, D.C. to fight for the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. After she came back she was the first American Indian woman to be elected to the Montana State Legislature. Her lifetime work change the lives of every American Indian nationwide. http://helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/montana-s-st-indian-lawmakerfought-her-entire-life-to/article_18eb5f8b-d40f-570a-a013-9d74806063e2.html On Jan. 2, 1933, the first day of the 23rd Montana Legislature session, Montana's first American Indian representative took her place among the 71 Democrats and 30 Republicans who swore to uphold the constitution of both the United States and Montana. "I do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Montana," said the representatives. "I will discharge the duties of my office as a member of the House of Representatives of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Montana, with fidelity."
Comments from Cheyenne Country: ‘We are good girls’ By Clara Caufield A Cheyenne Voice I tell this story as it was told to me. But, it’s not a story, rather it is the tragic truth about how too many Native American women on reservations live. It was typical August Montana: a ruthless searing sun, sucking air from lungs and forcing sweat to every brow. Two weary teen aged girls trudged along Main Street, pushing baby strollers precariously, the little white rubber wheels bumping along the uneven rocky surface, babies asleep under meager stroller flaps. One young mother clutched the hand of a toddler who gamely followed, plastic bottle clutched in grubby little hand. Packing plastic sacks, the young women obviously returned from the only grocery store in our small town, surely financed by food stamps. Watching from a new air-conditioned car, heavy memories assaulted me. “That was me, seventeen years ago”. Abruptly caught in teenage memories, I groped for a tissue in my designer handbag to wipe away sudden tears, perfectly manicured nails in desperate contrast to the desolate scene. Seventeen years could be a lifetime. That’s when I escaped the same situation and how long I was away, carving out a different life. Home for a funeral, I hoped things had improved in the small poverty stricken Village on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation where I grew up. The government calls it a “rurally isolated and impoverished” community where unemployment runs to 75% accompanied by horrific social problems. Alcohol, drug abuse, domestic violence and so forth are all at unacceptable levels. There is also a very high rate of teenage pregnancy which leads to high school drop outs.
Many of these young women try to escape bad home environments by “seeking love in all the wrong places.” I know because I lived it. The child of alcoholics, my childhood was a nightmare. The only thing we knew for sure was uncertainty. Most often, our home was filled with drunks, my parents and friends. Food and security were problematic, but violence – verbal and physical - was guaranteed. I was a “good” girl, hoping to influence my parents: gaining excellent grades, usually getting myself, my brother and sister up and off to school; a sports champion and faithful member of the Youth Church Group where the Pastor was kind. “You’re a smart and talented young lady,” he said. “The Lord has great things in store for you.”
Clara Caulfield is the publisher of www.ACheyenneVoice.com Sometimes Mama would hug me, kiss me and through a thick layer of whiskey breathe whisper, “I love you. You’re a good girl.” I clung to the belief of being a “good” girl. Something deep inside of me demanded that. Yet, even good girls can wind up in very bad situations. Life changed when I was sexually molested by a drunken friend of my parents in my own bedroom. I nearly gave up then. That is not supposed to happen to “good” girls. At sixteen I was pregnant, though finished high school. Marriage to the father, an alcoholic abuser was the way “out.” A few years later I had two more babies and more than my share of black eyes, broken bones and drunken tirades. “You’re a slut and a whore, “my young husband would scream while pounding me with his
fists, pulling my hair or kicking me. He nearly convinced me. He didn’t want me, but wouldn’t let me leave. Because church was the only social activity my husband allowed, I went faithfully. “If you ever need help, we are here for you,” the Pastor said. After an especially brutal beating, it was time to ask. He drove us to a Women’s Shelter in Billings, Montana, a safe place. It wasn’t easy there, but going home was not an option. With the help of wonderful Shelter staff, I enrolled in a job training program requiring relocation to a far away city, scary, but safer than home. The long grind took several years, but I completed training and got a great paying job. After the women’s shelters and years in low-income cockroach infested apartments, the children were delighted to live in a townhouse. “It’s a palace. A King could live here!” the oldest proclaimed. “A King does live here. And it’s you,” I told him. I got my first new car and even started my own marketing business, because people reinforced the belief that I was capable. Sometimes I felt they were angels on earth, specifically to help women like me. It seemed necessary to leave my old dysfunctional life behind. Yet, sooner or later, Native people all come home. That’s how I found myself parked along a dusty road side on the Reservation, watching a distant memory of myself in the guise of two young desperate teenage mothers. Suddenly, I knew. “If I can help even one of them, I’ve got to do it.” Perhaps an angel touched me on the shoulder. Caufield, a Northern Cheyenne, publishes a weekly column My children were startled with this sudden decision. Knowing little about the Reservation, they agreed, exhibiting the deepest confidence in me. “What are we going to do?” they wondered.
“We’ll know when we get there”. With that, I quit my job, had a huge garage sale, loaded up a U-Haul and came back home. Because my parents died, I inherited my childhood home. It was unnerving to spend the first night in the same bedroom where I was molested as a child, but I got through it. It is a “good” house now. My old Pastor friend still says “You are a good girl.” No longer a girl, I’m glad he still affirms that basic truth. I am a manager now, married to a wonderful man. We encourage young mothers, promoting parenting, sobriety and job-training programs and even rides to the Shelter if they decide. And, we work with a local Church Youth Group. I see my old self in many of the young girls. “You are all good girls,” we tell them. Many of them are starting to believe it. (Clara Caufield can be contacted at email@example.com) Republished with Permission
A year of action for Indian Country By MARK TRAHANT
The thing I like about state of unions -- the national kind, the NCAI kind, and the tribal kind -- is that it’s a to do list. Leaders see this is a list of “action items” while I see this as a list of fascinating issues that are worth exploring in future columns.
I want to start with an idea raised by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union message: “Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans
want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”
What would a “year of action” look like in Indian Country? And, more important, how do we get there?
National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby began this year’s State of Indian Nations by talking about so many of the success stories from Indian Country. “Tribal leaders and advocates have never been more optimistic about the future of native people,” he said. But that sense of possibility is “threatened by the federal government’s ability to deliver its promises.”
President Cladoosby released NCAI’s budget request for the coming fiscal year. That document calls for funding treaty obligations with the “fundamental goal” of parity for Indian Country with “similarly situated governments.” As a moral case, and cause, this is exactly right. This is an aspirational document, as it should be.
But in a year of action there needs to be another route forward. This Congress is incapable of honoring treaties. Even in a more friendly era, members of Congress proudly called Indian health a “treaty right” only to appropriate less than what was required. This year’s federal budget essentially is flat (which means less program dollars because Indian Country’s population is growing). NCAI puts it this way: “However, the trend in funding for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior does not reflect Indian self-determination as a priority in the federal budget.”
But it’s not the Interior Department. It’s all of government and especially the Congress.
To my way of thinking, this particular moment in history is especially important. The demographics of Indian Country -- a young, growing population -- exactly matches the greater need of the nation as a whole (a nation that is rapidly aging). Cladoosby said in the past thirty years the number of American Indian and Alaska Natives in college has more than double.
Cladoosby, who is chairman of the Swinomish Indian Community, said that his tribe is providing scholarships for their young people to the colleges of their choice. Thatâ€™s smart. I wish more tribes could afford that approach. But there are other ways that this can happen, too.
So here is one idea: What if President Obama, when he visits Indian Country this year, partners with tribal leaders to raise private money for tribal colleges? How much is possible, a billion endowment? Why not?
Or what about expanding efforts to forgive student debt? Too many young Native Americans are burdened by loans. If tribal members choose to be teachers or serve tribal governments, erase what they owe. (And expand similar programs for young people who choose health care careers.)
Two other items in the State of Indian Nations that are important and exciting are tribes building international partnerships, President Cladoosby mentioned Turkey, as well as tax reform so that tribes can raise their own funds. He said tribes should get at least the same tax treatment as states. This could be new money. Action dollars.
In a year of action, it seems to me, the most lucrative routes do not involve Congress or appropriations.
In his congressional response, Montana Sen. Jon Tester hit on a couple of billion dollars just waiting to be picked up, and thatâ€™s the Affordable Care Act. Congress is not going to fully fund IHS. But that full-funding could happen if every eligible American Indian and Alaska Native signed up for tribal insurance, Medicaid, or purchased a free or subsidized policy through an exchange. This is money that Congress does not have to appropriate.
A couple billion dollars? Just waiting for a year of action. Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of The ShoshoneBannock Tribes. Comment on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TrahantReports