Introducing My Sister Friends’ House

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I know times are tough right now; a lot of people are out of work, others are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. Prices are rising on the necessities.

But I am asking you to stop and see if you have $20 or $10 or even $5 to spare for My Sister Friends’ House – Mita Maske Ti Ki, a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault shelter for women and children.

They have lost their grant funding and face closure by September if they don’t get enough funding to continue to operate as a shelter. They need $11,000 by August 31st to operate through September.

The end goal is $35,000 by September 30th – three months of operating expenses as they apply for grant funding and get established out on their own.

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How This Happened

Mita Maske Ti Ki has been helping women and children escape from Domestic Violence and sexual assault in Sioux Falls and neighboring communities since 2000. Their clientele has been primarily Native American, up to 85% of the women they see identify as Native American. They have operated under the auspices of other Domestic Violence prevention programs… the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assualt (SDCADVSA) and more recently, Project Safe.  However, the grants used by these organizations to fund Mita Maske Ti Ki have run out and, like so many social services in this day and age, have not been renewed.

It’s not like these organizations don’t want to fund Mita Maske Ti Ki – Chris Jongelingwith the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SDCADVSA) emailed me today to let me know:

Mita Maske Ti Ki (My Sister’s Friend House) ihas fulfilled a burgeoning need in Sioux Falls.  Many Native Americans in South Dakota do not live on reservations, and many women who have experienced domestic violence move to Sioux Falls because of its larger housing and job market…  

…This program is not supported by State funding because there are so many programs and so little money that helping Mita would constitute a reduction in funding for other domestic violence programs.  Mita was funded by a private Bush grant for several years, and when that private funding ran out there was a federal grant available to keep it afloat for one more year.  

Both Project Safe and SDCADVSA want to see Mita Maske Ti Ki survive and thrive – they just don’t have the means to make it happen.

So Mita Maske Ti Ki, My Sister Friends’ House, is having to go it alone. They have started filing for grants, set up a temporary board of directors (Georgia Little Shield, Director of Pretty Bird Woman House is on the Board of Directors). They have also applied for 501 (c) (3) status as a non-profit but they have not received approval on that yet.

They have applied for several grants which are extremely competitive. There is no certainty that My Sister Friends’ House will get any funding at all from them at this time, but if we bloggers, readers and commenters, can fund them through the next three months, that buys them the time to get more permanent funding.

They do have a house…

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Even if it does have some problems…

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And is kind of crumbling a little bit (winters are harsh in South Dakota)…

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But it also has a some very positive things to offer – like a playground for the kids.

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This modest house can shelter up to twelve women at a time and is full all the time. In fact, they often have to turn women away, referring them elsewhere because they do not have room. They do education and support services with the women seek shelter their and provide referrals to services beyond the scope of what My Sister Friends’ House can currently offer.

Meet the Team

My Sister Friends’ House has a two man woman crew – Meet Jolana and Kim (they sent me the photos and indicated it was okay to post them – Kim is very expecting in this picture and now has a child and a shelter to look after).

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Despite their youthful appearances, Jolana and Kim have run My Sister Friends’ House for 3 years. Right now, the services they offer are pretty bare bones… basic domestic violence education, shelter and referrals. But they have big dreams for My Sister Friends’ House:

  • Daycare so that women can look for jobs without having children in tow
  • Offer women training for job interviews and how to find jobs
  • Provide assistance in finding housing
  • Build a strong relationship with the community (police, social services, other shelters) so that they can maximize every potential aid for their clients
  • Education in Domestic Violence prevention, parenting and more
  • This is a chance to help them survive to pursue those dreams. Please, if you can afford to do so:

    DONATE – button is in upper right hand corner of webpage.

    Checks can go to:

    Mita Maske Ti Ki

    (My Sister Friends’ House)

    PO Box 2141

    Sioux Falls, SD 57101

    Thank you.

    For more information on Native American Women and the horrifying situation they are in due to the confusing mass of conflicting laws please read:

    Quick Summary of Problems

    Full Amnesty International report on the issues  

    Help Another Native American Women’s Shelter?

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    If not, just skip this diary. It will annoy the hell out of you.

    KELO in Sioux Falls did the introduction to this situation for me:

    Sioux Falls shelter for women and children who have been abused is at risk of shutting down.

    The shelter has been running on grants and federal funding since 2000, but those grants are coming to an end. Now the director says the women at the shelter may have to move out.

    The Mita Maske Ti Ki shelter, which means “My Sister Friends’ House,” houses about a dozen women and children who have left abusive homes and are trying to turn their lives around. But with their funding running out at the end of August, those victims of domestic violence could soon lose their sanctuary.

    Link to the Shelter blog where you can donate

    When Georgia Littleshield from Pretty Bird Woman House called me and asked me to do this my response was: OH, HELL NO.

    A lot of people really got very resentful and tired of the fundraising diaries for PBWH. It was exhausting to do that fundraising drive for the house. You have no idea how much time this took behind the scenes – it was all Pretty Bird, all the time.

    This time round it’s worse. It’s election season. People want to donate to candidates, not causes. I’m one of them.

    Also, I really wanted to move from the bucket brigade putting out fires to legislative solutions, really solving the problems facing Native American Women.

    But Georgia said: if you don’t, who will?

    And Jolana, the director of My Sister Friends’ House said: I don’t want to close. We help so many women.

    And I read Teacherken’s diary:All of us, starting right now.

    And I can’t go to sleep knowing that somewhere, someone could have been helped, but I didn’t bother.

    So, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Mita Maske Ti Ki.

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    The goal is simple: $35,000. We buy them three months to land a new grant. The South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence is helping them, as is Pretty Bird Woman House and other shelters.

    More later. I have to go to bed.

    Building Momentum For Change: Ending the Maze of Injustice

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    Will Native American women finally get equal protection under the law?

    Right now Native American women on reservations are 3 times as likely to be raped as a white woman. Due to an insanely complex series of jurisdictional issues, limited law enforcement, minimal political will and racism, perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence against Native American women often commit their crimes with impunity, knowing they will likely never face prosecution. All of this was documented in sickening detail last year by Amnesty International’s report Maze of Injustice

    Today, Senator Byron Dorgan introduced the Tribal Law and Order Act in the Senate.

    The legislation is designed to boost law enforcement efforts by providing tools to tribal justice officials to fight crime in their own communities, improving coordination between law enforcement agencies, and increasing accountability standards.

    Will this legislation stop the violence?

    The Tribal Law and Order Act has three primary goals:

    First, it would make it easier for tribal police… to arrest non-Indians who commit federal crimes on tribal lands, including sexual assault. Second, it would increase the sentencing power of tribal courts by allowing them to put convicted tribal members behind bars for three years instead of one – and even send them to federal prison. Third, the bill would increase accountability for U.S. attorneys by requiring them to keep a record of every case on tribal lands they decline to prosecute.

    Truthfully, to me, these sound like baby steps in the right direction. Allowing tribal police to arrest non-Indian perpetrators is a start… but how about letting tribal prosecutors actually be the ones to bring charges?

    Right now, if a perpetrator is convicted of a crime in a tribal court, the maximum sentence the tribal court can impose is one year in jail. Murder, rape, torture… a maximum of one year in jail. This bill will expand that to three years – an improvement to be sure, but three years for rape? Three years for murder? Still very weak.

    Georgia Little Shield, Director of Pretty Bird Woman House spoke about the importance of that final accountability plank for US attorneys with NPR:

    “I sit with women who cry and are mad because the feds didn’t want to pick up the case. This bill, I think, would give women more of a right, that the prosecutor’s got to be more accountable for federal jurisdiction on these cases. And he’s going to have to be accountable for the cases he doesn’t prosecute,” Littleshield said.

    Overall, the bill looks like a promising step forward. But the reality is that this is a journey of a thousand miles, and this is just one step. There is much more to do.

    Props to the bills cosponsors: Senators Murkowski, Biden, Domenici, Baucus, Bingaman, Lieberman, Kyl, Johnson, Smith, Cantwell, Thune, Tester. Who the hell would have guessed I’d ever give props to Murkowski and Lieberman? To her credit, Murkowski has actually seemed to be somewhat proactive on these issues.

    Hat tip to Pager from Daily Kos. I would have missed this without her.

    Audio of the NPR story is right here.

    Indian Health Service Loses $15.8 Million Worth of Equipment

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    Via TPM Muckraker (although their link is wrong) comes this article in the Washington Post:

    GAO: Indian health agency lost millions in goods.

    No wonder they can’t deliver services to reservations… they are too busy losing small items like:

    all-terrain vehicles and tractors, laptop computers and digital cameras.

    Apparently they also managed to misplace a “jaws of life” which are used to rescue people trapped in cars after car wrecks.

    I don’t have much to add other than this comes as no surprise. Under the Bush administration it appears that any agency that serves Native Americans was up for grabs to the most willing crony. However, in light of the fact that Georgia Little Shield cannot get tested or examined for the back pain she has which makes walking agonizing, it is sickening.

    Georgia told me that via the IHS she has probably seen 50 to 60 different doctors as the agency rotates young physicians in and out of the reservations.  

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    How To Rape A Woman And Get Away With It

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    This title is not an exaggeration or misstatement, although I really wish it were. I did not go to Netroots Nation to learn that it was possible to rape a woman, right here in the United States and walk away with absolutely no consequences to the rapist. But that’s what I learned in a panel discussion on Friday morning.

    Come over the fold and I’ll tell you exactly how this happens – and you can take an action, a small first step towards ending this nightmare.

    How to rape a woman and get away with it – a step by step guide:

    NOTE: this method works best for white perpetrators.

    1. Go to an Indian reservation.

    2. Choose your victim.

    3. Rape her.

    4. Leave the reservation.

    At this point the police may get involved. This is not a problem for the rapist at all; in fact, it is kind of an additional rape of the victim, a two-for-one violation. Let me illustrate how the police investigation will likely go down:

    A rape victim sits on a Indian Health Services clinic bed as the police discuss the situation:

    Tribal officer to local white police: The perpetrator is white, I don’t have jurisdiction. Do you?

    Local police: Nope, the victim is Native American. I don’t have jurisdiction. How about you Mr. State Trooper?

    State Trooper: Not my problem. According to Public Law 280 I have no jurisdiction. This is a tribal or federal matter.

    Tribal Officer: But there aren’t any FBI agents on the reservation right now.

    Local police: Well, the victim will just have to wait until one comes.

    State Trooper: This Indian Health Service clinic doesn’t even have a rape kit, so there won’t be any forensic evidence.

    Local police: I guess this is the end of it. (Tips his hat to the rape victim) You have a nice day ma’am.

    Tribal officer, Local Policeman and State Trooper exit.

    Victim: Isn’t anyone going to do anything?

    Indian Health Service physician assistant: Hey, I can give you some ibuprofen before I send you home!

    Georgia LittleShield, Director of Pretty Bird Woman House knows all about this. It happened to her daughter years ago. The rapist is free, has never faced charges and is on the reservation – where he can encounter and threaten his victim. No consequences, not a single one.

    Let me tell you something: perpetrators, predators and sex offenders know all about this! They target Native American women! They travel to reservations to choose their victims! It is rape tourism, right here in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Alaska and any place where the confusing mess of jurisdictional issues allow perpetrators to hide.

    Are there even words to describe this evil?

    There is something you can do right now to help:

    Use Amnesty International USA’s form to contact the newly appointed Director of Indian Health Services Robert G. McSwain and tell him to make sure IHS has free rape kits available for victims of sexual assault – CLICK HERE TO CONTACT IHS DIRECTOR ROBERT MCSWAIN

    Join Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women Campaign

    Small things, but it is a start.

    Get Informed:

    Read/Download the original Amnesty International Report: Maze of Injustice and the recent updates.

    Visit Pretty Bird Woman House website and read the amazing story of how this women’s shelter was helped by the netroots!

    A Brief Personal Note

    I know there are other issues of great importance. I know we must elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America. Our top short term policy priority must be to end the illegal war in Iraq. Our top long term priority must be to halt global warming.  

    But, like torture, this is simply evil. It must be stopped.

    Our panel on this topic at Netroot Nations was a failure. We only had at most fifteen people there. The topic is one most people prefer to avoid and I did not promote it enough.  

    But we have to speak up. We must. This is not a case where we simply teach Native Americans how to blog and suddenly they have their own voice to speak on these issues. Many reservations have only very limited internet access – pretty much only dialup. They don’t even have computers in most cases!!

    Someone has to help give these women a voice. Amnesty International has done a tremendous amount of work on this. But we need more. Please, help me with this. Spread the word.

    As a result of this diary I

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    Pretty Bird Woman House: Raises Over $80,000 for a New House

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    My apologies; I only learned of the existence of this blog today when someone at Daily Kos suggested I crosspost this announcement. I hope this is not inappropriate. Thank you.


    In October, Betsy Campisi, a volunteer on the last Pretty Bird Woman House fundraising drive called Georgia Little Shield, the shelter director to check in. After all, after the previous May fundraiser, things looked great – Pretty Bird Woman House had a building, funding from the Netroots until a grant kicked in in… things were going well. But when Betsy spoke to Georgia she heard grim news.

    Our shelter was burned down. They stole everything. Then they burnt it down.

    Betsy asked; how much to buy a new house with a security system? The answer: $70,000. Worse, all the grants Pretty Bird Woman House depended on required a physical building to use as a shelter. They needed the money FAST. It seemed so unlikely back in October that it could even be done…

    Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just hope that the net is there to catch you. This time there was no net. But you wonderful people… you wove that net even as everything was falling off the edge. You wove the net out of blog posts and $5 donations, out of human love and compassion.  

    If you are not familiar with the story behind Pretty Bird Woman House you can get a pretty complete history right here.

    Wow, I don’t cry often but today when I surfed over to the Pretty Bird Woman House Blog and saw we had met our goal of $70,000-well, I pretty much lost it…

    The timing could not have been better – Pretty Bird Woman House had a Board of Directors Meeting today. All of the Board of Directors and the advocates who work for the Pretty Bird Woman House had come into town for the meeting. Shelter Director Georgia Little Shield checked the Chip-In before the meeting started:

    Everybody broke down in tears… thank you, thank you, thank you! The Board of Directors was shocked. The girls (the advocates) were crying they were so surprised.

    Even more amazing – they have not finished counting the checks that have arrived in the mail yet – we have really raised more than $77,000 for Pretty Bird Woman House… in fact, it might be well over $80,000 by the time the counting is done. You did not just buy a women’s shelter – you bought furniture, paid some of the energy bills, got a top notch security system… Georgia has promised me she will keep us updated on how the money is used. They have a donated digital camera and she will photograph things as they happen so that we can see.

    Georgia went on to tell me that her life experiences with domestic violence and abuse as well as the horrors she sees on a day to day basis sometimes catch up to her and darken her world.

    But this.. this has totally amazed me and given me hope – that there are so many good people out there. Strangers who actually care.

    Now the voices of these women will be heard!

    A new energy fills Pretty Bird Woman House; the staff does not spend its time trying to figure out how to make ends meet for tomorrow, unable to see how they can function next week, let alone the next month. Already things are falling into place. They have a bid in on a house across from the police station; if that does not work out for any reason, they have other buildings in mind.

    Georgia is expanding the services offered by Pretty Bird Woman House – she has applied for two new grants and wants to hire two advocates who will specialize in working with victims of sexual assault. And Pretty Bird Woman House has a new volunteer advocate.  Those of you who followed this story will remember her. Back in October Georgia told us about the situation this remarkable woman was in:

    I recently attended a court sentencing of man that pled guilty to a charge of sexual assault against a Native American Woman and the Mayor of his town testified that he was an up standing community member and that the community would except him back with open arms and to just give him probation.

    That’s right; the new advocate for victims at Pretty Bird Woman House is the woman who was raped by this man. She is completing this circle and as part of her healing is reaching out to help others.

    So who did this? Who is behind this amazing achievement?

    The person who started Pretty Bird Woman House is Jackie Brown Otter. She did it in memory of her sister, Pretty Bird Woman, who was raped and murdered. Georgia Little Shield is the director of Pretty Bird Woman House. About seven Lakota Sioux (some may be Dakota Sioux – my apologies if I have gotten this wrong) women have been the core of this whole project, they nurtured the dream and made it reality.

    The progressive netroots would probably never have heard of this if Daily Kos user Norman Bier had not heard a National Public Radio story on an Amnesty International Report detailing how terrible the plight of Native American women was with regard to sexual assault. Norman Bier diaried on Daily Kos about the fact that without funds, Pretty Bird Woman House would close – and over 600 people responded with $27,000 to keep the shelter running until grant money kicked in.

    That’s how Betsy got involved. I only got involved after reading a diary by Winter Rabbit called Pretty Bird Woman House: Let’s Unbury some Hearts. Daily Kos frontpager Devilstower gave the fundraising a jolt of lightning when he frontpaged a fundraising diary.

    Raw Stats

  • 14 people gave over $1,000
  • 14 people donated over $500 but less than $1,000
  • 150 people donated over $100 but under $500
  • 66 people made mutiple donations
  • Very rough estimate is that about 60% of donors were female, 40% male… not all names are clear, several donated as a family, etc. but overall, much more even numbers than I had expected.
  • 934 individuals donated via Chip-In – that number will go up when checks are counted
  • Blogs Honor Roll:

    All Spin Zone

    Angry Black Bitch

    Bitch PhD

    Black and Missing but not Forgotten – this blog exists to publicize missing black women in the hope that they can be found, or at least not forgotten. It’s terrible to know there is a need for a blog like this, but it’s wonderful that Deidra has chosen to to this. I know she is a Christian, but I hope she won’t mind me wishing that the Goddess bless her and hold her.

    Coleen at livejournal

    Nezua Limon Zolagrafik-Jonez on Corrente

    Daily Gotham

    Daily Kos

    Docudharma

    ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES

    elynross

    Feministe

    Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez on Jesus’ General

    Left In The West

    Melekakimaka: Christmas in Hawaii

    Mole333 at Culture Kitchen

    My Left Wing

    Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez at Culture Kitchen

    Obsidian Wings

    Offsprung: Lock the Bedroom Door

    one tenacious baby mama

    Other Guild? Whatever that may be

    Our Bodies, Our Blog

    RadGeek

    Radical Doula

    Shakesville

    Street Prophets

    Flux at Suicide Girls – this website is NSFW!

    The Unapologetic Mexican

    Vox ex Machina

    Wampum

    Women’s Health News

    Zillah’s Gin

    The Future For Pretty Bird Woman House

    This time around we won’t lose touch; Georgia is planning on launching a regular newsletter… if you donated, you will get it (I will work with her so that you can opt out; Georgia is an incredible woman but she is not net savvy). We’ll do periodic diaries on Daily Kos and Street Prophets. Betsy and I are hoping to take a trip out and visit the new house when it is set up.

    Hopefully we have put Pretty Bird Woman House in a position to be self-sustaining. It is great that we helped, but they must be able to thrive and grow on their own. We provided extraordinary assistance at a time of extraordinary crisis, which is appropriate. Personally, I think they are on the way. I expect them to keep growing.

    The Future For Native American Women: Obtaining Equal Justice

    Well, truthfully I have been so busy with the fundraiser I have not really thought about this but I am going to make this a part of my life. How can we expect justice in Iraq when our own people are treated this way? We have to put an end to it.

    I am starting my research with Senator Byron Dorgan’s concept paper on improving law enforcement in Indian country. More information and places to submit comments are here. But that’s about as far as I have gotten with this. Maybe in comments people can suggest other places to go.

    So the fight is not over by any means… but for now we celebrate an amazing victory!

    WE DID IT! WE BOUGHT PRETTY BIRD WOMAN HOUSE A NEW HOUSE!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR PROGRESSIVE NETROOTS!!

    You can still Donate here!.

    Pretty Bird Woman House is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.

    More info here:

    Pretty Bird Woman House Blog – many more resources and links here!!

    Amnesty International Report-Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA

    Why traditional fundraising avenues are closed to Pretty Bird Woman House

    A Fairly Complete History of Pretty Bird Woman House.

    Pretty Bird Woman HouseYahoo Group.