Pretty Bird Woman House – first and last call

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This the annual fundraising diary for the Pretty Bird Woman House, a women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which the Daily Kos community has supported since 2007, when we came together and not only prevented the shelter from going under, but bought it an entire house. It was an incredible thing to see this community do. This is a good time to remember that, to remind ourselves of what we can accomplish when we unite instead of fight.

Christmas TiPi Pictures, Images and Photos

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the history of our involvement with the shelter, I will direct you to a post that Andy T wrote on the Pretty Bird Woman House blog, which pretty much summed up our efforts then.

the shelter, which includes a general (tax deductible) fund for the shelter, and a separate one for gift cards for the staff (not deductible).

This year, for reasons I will tell you about in the update below, I’m just doing a ChipIn for the staff. General donations (the tax deductible kind) can still be made by check, but not on-line.

I apologize for the lateness of this appeal, but like a lot of folks I’ve had a hard time this year. But there is still time to donate. It takes only a few minutes to donate via ChipIn or write a check. This year you might also want to add a couple of kids to your Christmas list. More on that below.

Shelter News

This has been a big year for the shelter, in good and bad ways.

First the good. The tribe has given the shelter a $250,000 grant to start a sexual assault response team and develop education programs. The shelter then hired 2 new staff for this purpose. They work in the Tribal Council building in Ft. Yates. Can’t get much better cooperation from the top than that! The grant signaled the tribe’s recognition of the shelter as a permanent fixture on the reservation. If you contributed to the fund drive, you can therefore be confident that your one-time donation did some permanent good.

Second, the not-so-good. Georgia Little Shield, the shelter’s director, resigned her position as of December 11 due to health issues that were becoming more and more difficult for her to manage with the kind of stress a women’s shelter director endures. She is probably going to be on Social Security disability and Medicaid.  

Right now, Jackie Brown Otter, whose sister is the shelter’s namesake, is working as the interim director until they get a new one.

A few months before Georgia resigned, a key advocate resigned, and the staff member who did the bookkeeping is also leaving. In this case, the old bookkeeper, who also did advocacy and intake work, will return.

As a result of all of this turnover, as well as my new full-time job as an office supervisor at the Census, which came after a very tumultuous year for me personally, I haven’t been in as much contact with the shelter as I had been in the past, and I haven’t been aggressive about holiday fundraising either. I apologize folks. It has just been a tough year.

So, this year I have posted a ChipIn for the staff gift cards only. I took the other ChipIn down after I realized that not only did the new staff not know what a ChipIn was, but it was not properly set up for a new director.

BUT IT’S NOT TOO LATE! If you want to donate to the shelter’s general fund, you can still send a check.

The address is:

Pretty Bird Woman House

P.O. Box 596

McLaughlin, SD 57642

You can also send clothing and other donations to that address using the USPS. To use other delivery services use this address:

211 First Ave W. McLaughlin, SD 57642.

There are four shelter staff aside from Jackie, and two volunteers. That is six people. Plus Jackie that’s seven. Plus Georgia, eight. I did a poll in this diary the first 2 days I posted it, and opinion was nearly unanimous that we should just divide what’s collected among them all. So that’s what will happen with your donation.

Georgia’s not-so-merry Christmas

Even with her terrible back pain, Georgia is now regretting not waiting a couple of more weeks to resign because with her husband being unemployed, there is now no money for Christmas presents for the children she is fostering – two grandchildren and two step nieces, all girls except for the two year old, ranging in age from 2 to 17.

So, if you are so inclined, you could do some last minute Christmas shopping for the kids. I will send her a gift card in any case. I asked Georgia what kinds of things the kids like. She sent me the following email:

Oh The 6 year old any thing tinker bell, the 9 year old any thing Hanna Montana, the 2 year old boy Cars or riding toys he has none. The 17 year old any make up such eye make up eye shadows (brown and Plum) and mascara black eye liner black. Really poor on make up she is.

The Tribe where i live lost there low energy money so those of us who did get that last year will not be getting help with propane, Man if its not one thing its another. I want to just scream.

As you can see, Christmas is not Georgia’s only problem. If you’d like to do some last minute shopping for her kids you can send the gifts to:

Georgia Little Shield P.O. Box 292 Isabel SD 57633.

(the post box number means you have to use the USPS, so I would recommend the flat rate Priority Mail boxes given the late date).

I will have the gift card ChipIn up until COB Tuesday to give anyone who still wants to donate one more chance, and then I’ll get the gift cards after work and send them off Express Mail.

Remember, if you want a tax-deductible donation, you can also send a check to the shelter.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Impressions of the Standing Rock Reservation – Photo Edition

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Cross-posted on the Daily Kos

For those of you who haven’t followed the Pretty Bird Woman House diaries, to make a long story perhaps too short, last fall I became the shelter’s fundraiser. Last winter, due to the generosity of the Netroots, the shelter bought a 3 bedroom house in McLaughlin SD, and it now a fully-functioning, 3 bedroom women’s shelter.

Georgia Little Shield, the shelter’s director, invited me out to Standing Rock to observe some domestic violence prevention workshops they were doing in the communities with Cecilia Fire Thunder and Carmen O’Leary, two famous activists. Unfortunately, due to some snow and severe cold the workshop was postponed until after I left. So, I had to stay indoors for the first few days and then I got to know the eastern part of the reservation for the rest of the time.

Below the fold you’ll find lots of photos of Standing Rock and some of my impressions. I will follow with another diary strictly about the shelter.

You’ll see that this has taken me a while to write this. I came down with the flu after I got back, and also had some more thinking to do about what I saw.  

Before continuing, I want to add that I had the privilege of accompanying two wonderful French journalists, Anne Senges and Stephane Gladieu who are doing a story on the shelter and Standing Rock for Marie Claire magazine (they found out about the story on DKos!) and Getty images, which will have the story in English along with the photos for editors.

Because they were so taken with the problems on Standing Rock, they will provide us with the entire article and photos to use as a fundraising tool. So, in about March I’ll be doing a diary that’s a reprint of that article, or they will post it directly here. They got some amazing individual stories, and the photographer is one of most well known in France, so I am excited about that.

First, lets take a look at Standing Rock in the winter. I arrived to blowing snow and below zero temps at night. Georgia Little Shield was supposed to pick me up in Rapid City, but sent Tannekkia Williams instead because of a death in the family. Going into Rapid City was bad advice – I would never have suspected that anyone would think nothing of driving 5 hours to pick someone up at the airport (Bismark ND would have been closer to Standing Rock, but Georgia lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation, which is on the southern boarder).

Though Tannekkia, who is a shelter volunteer and board member, grew up in Minneapolis but she married an enrolled member of Standing Rock (and then become a domestic violence victim), and is quite assimilated into the Lakota culture. If you went to the Pretty Bird Woman House panel at the Netroots Nation, you might remember her. She is a very articulate spokesperson for the shelter and anti-domestic violence efforts on Standing Rock.

Tannekkia greeted me with the joyful announcement that she had seen 30 spotted eagles on her trip down, and one even smashed into the side of her car. She considered this a very good omen.  

After we had dinner in Rapid City, Tanekkia took me to nearby Bear Butte, one of the two major Lakota sacred sites in the region (the other being Devilstower), even though it was dark and wet snow was falling. After a drive up a very long hill and a very short hike we reached a clearing near the summit. Despite the weather and the darkness, the area felt incredibly peaceful, and pretty soon the clouds parted to reveal a nearly-full moon, which lit up our surroundings for a few minutes.  The clearing also contained a skeleton of a sweat lodge, next to a large a pile of stones used to heat it. Tannekkia explained that elder men used that lodge when they went up there. She also pointed out tobacco prayer flags along the way, and offered some of her own to a big boulder from a little pouch she had with her. We both left feeling peaceful and refreshed.

Well, during the now six-hour trip back to Standing Rock in the blowing snow, we found out that the workshops for the whole week had been postponed, which also meant that Georgia would be holed up in her trailer on the Cheyenne River Reservation for much of the week as well. The Tribal Offices also shut down for most of the week. Such is winter in the Dakotas.  

Not to worry, there was always the incredible scenery.  

A typical view driving around Standing Rock in the winter.


Standing Rock house

Little House on the Prairie!

Little House on the Prairir

buffalo on the STanding Rock jan 09


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Frozen Missouri River from Mobridge SD. In Lakota it’s Lake Oahe. This part of the river was originally a stream but was flooded for a damn, which drove dozens of families from their homes and killed a lot of trees, from what I could see of the stumps farther up river. The Tribe receives monies each year in supposed reparations for this. This year they decided to use some of those funds for a sexual assault response team, which will probably transform Tannekkia from a volunteer into a full time staff member with an office in the Tribal Council building. On the hill you can also see the smaller casino on the Reservation.

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Sitting Bull Monument


Tannekkia in an impromptu shoot


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Big sky at dusk


Prairie Pastels


Looking at the Sakagawea monument at sunset


A prairie dog village in winter

General Information from the Standing Rock website

Standing Rock Reservation Eight DistrictsDistrict Population

1. Fort Yates, North Dakota 1,961 5. Little Eagle, South Dakota 695

2. Porcupine, North Dakota 219 6. Mclaughlin (Bear Soldier), SD 758

3. Kenel, South Dakota 259 7. Bullhead (Rock Creek), SD 692

4. Wakpala, South Dakota 707 8. Cannon Ball, North Dakota 847

Tribal/Agency Headquarters: Fort Yates, North Dakota

Counties: Sioux County, North Dakota; Corson, Dewey and Ziebach Counties, South Dakota

Federal Reservation: 1873

Population of enrolled members: 10,859

Reservation Population: 6,171

Density:: 0.4 persons per square mile

Labor Force: 3,761

Unemployment percentage rate: 79

Language: Lakota/Dakota and English

Lakota/Dakota Bands: Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Yanktonia, Cuthead

Land Status: Acres

Total Area 2,300,000

Tribal Owned 866,072

Tribal Owned Allotted 542,543

Total tribal owned 1,408,061

Non-Indian Owned 1,283,000

Reservoir Taken area 55,993


Tribal Council Building


Prairie Knights Casino in Ft. Yates. There is a smaller one near Mobridge.


One thing we learned during the shelter fundraiser is that there are chronic housing shortages on the reservation. This gave me the impression that all the housing stock would be terrible, but it’s not. There still isn’t enough of it, but at least much of it is not as terrible as I thought it would be. Some of it is bad, but much of it is OK. But since there are shortages often more than one generation must live in a house, and people don’t have a choice of what neighborhood they will live in. It kind of reminded me of the situation in Cuba.

You do see this:


But it seemed that there was more housing like this:


Bear Soldier South






Here’s what the Standing Rock website says about the housing situation:

The Standing Rock Housing Authority constructs and manages over 650 homesfor Tribal members living on the reservation. This includes homes on scattered sites built through the HUD Mutual Help home ownership program on individual land or Tribal land leased for homesites. The other housing in the districts is low-income HUD Low Rent for individual Indian residents in reservation communities. As private housing stock is limited, some of the Standing Rock members own their own homes in the rural areas through other private financing. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service have some housing available in McLaughlin and McIntosh for their employees.The Tribe plans to build a number of apartment complexes in the future.

The need for housing is great on Standing Rock. The Tribe is looking into Habitat for Humanity homes and the government Home Grant project The number of persons per household in the Standing Rock Service Area is 4.60 compared to 3.27 for the State of North Dakota and 3.27 for the State of South Dakota. The number of persons per family for U.S. All Races is 3.80.

Social Customs

Sometimes, when you are looking at one thing about a group of people, in this case domestic or other interpersonal violence, it’s easy to lose track of the more basic, and beautiful things about their culture. What I was touched by was the fact that people ascribed great meaning to small gestures or events, such as siting an eagle in the sky, or getting a small gift of tobacco from a visitor.  

I also found people’s appreciation for the earth and its inhabitants profoundly spiritual, no matter what other behaviors they exhibited on top of that.

When we were going around with the journalists, Tannekkia suggested that we take people either a pouch of tobacco or some coffee (Folgers seems to be the only brand around, by the way). So we did, and you could see by people’s faces that this small gesture made a big difference.

For example,as he was setting up a photo shoot at Georgia’s house on the Cheyenne River Reservation, Stephane gave her husband Norman a cigarette, which he thought Norman would smoke. Instead, he put it behind an eagle feather he had propped up inside of a picture in the kitchen so that he could pray on it the next time he was inspired to do so (usually outside in nature).

Here is the cigarette under the eagle feather:


Two other things common in people’s homes are star quilts and dried prairie turnips.

Here, Rhea sews a star quilt, which she will sell on the Reservation. Some people also sell them on the Internet, at sites like eBay.

Woman sewing star quilt

From what people told me, the turnips are more for decoration, unless you’re really hungry and bother to soak them.


This is just a taste of what is hidden just below the surface of all the poverty and sickness on Indian reservations.

The Reservation as a Network of Kin and Fictive Kin

Another lovely thing about the Lakota people is their system of fictive kin, as anthropologists would call it. People easily “take” people as adopted brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, etc. You can become someone’s adopted relative by ceremony or just by them saying so. Tannekkia’s father-in-law, for exampl, “took her as his daughter”, so she thought of and referred to him as her father even after her divorce. It did get me a little confused though when people would talk about all these brothers and sisters, sometimes saying “adopted” as a preface and sometimes not. It seemed to me that everyone had adopted kin that they took seriously as such.

I also thought it was lovely that people always used kinship terms when referring to someone they were either close with or respected a lot, perhaps for being an elder. For example, I became auntie to Tannekkia’s kids. However, even with Georgia’s two foster daughters, the youngest one, who was eight, would call her older sister, who was 17, “sister.” Elders are usually called Auntie, Uncle, or Grannie or Grandpa. I really liked that.

Isaac jan09

Tannekkia’s four year old Isaac playing in the back yard.

Tanekkia and Vaughn Edward

Tannekkia and her son Vaughn Edward. Cute kids, eh!

Interpersonal Violence

Yes, this is an endemic problem on all reservations, along with alcoholism, drug abuse, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, etc. Standing Rock was especially bad because it only had 2 officers operating in a place the size of Connecticut. So, people had a lot of impunity, especially if they were near the border town of Mobridge. All you had to was cross the Missouri River, or Lake Oahe, and you were out of the tribe’s jurisdiction.

This was in my face as soon as I got there. Tannekkia and her brother, who live in college housing on the Sitting Bull campus, had been woken up early in the morning a night or two before I arrived by a woman next door who had been battered by her son. She was visiting, and they both started to drink. Well, he ended up punching and kicking her so hard in one of her eyes that it burst. Tannekkia and her brother separtely described the woman as crying, with one eye crying tears and the other one crying blood. That visual was hard to shake. They also told me that it had taken 20 or 30 minutes to convince her to call the police because she was afraid she would get into trouble for being drunk, even though she probably will never see out of that eye again.

The kid finally got arrested two weeks after the incident. The case is being passed up to the federal level (read, FBI) due to the severity of the woman’s injuries.

As if that weren’t enough, the woman in the photo told us a story of how she had been brutally raped and beaten in 1980 – even her pelvis was broken, and she had been dragged around behind a pick up truck. Although she wouldn’t admit it, her current husband was also beating her (he had broken her arm a month or two before, but it had healed before we got there), and they both drank.

Her attacker had gotten 18 years in jail but when he was released, he came to live in her neighborhood, and due to the housing shortage she cannot move away from him or the three pedophiles that live in the neighborhood. She seemed to have PTSD to me, judging by the way she was acting when she was telling this story. I would too, and, I thought, I’d probably drink as well.

The woman’s daughter, she told us, had been a victim of a horrific incident of domestic violence that involved her husband locking her in the basement naked for 2 weeks, and so severely beating her that she suffered brain injuries. After 2 years she still suffers occasional seizures.

And, this is the neighborhood where Jackie Brown Otter lives, remember, with the sister, Ivy (whose Lakota name is Pretty Bird Woman) who was found raped and murdered. Well, there were two more cases of young women being raped, murdered and thrown into the field behind the complex in previous years as well.

And all of this takes place within a social context where people gossip so much about each other that it has destroyed all trust, so it’s very difficult for people to work together to do things like have a healing circle.  

That last element really had me stumped.

In my opinion, having done research on culture and trauma, the community really needs to start paying attention to PTSD much more seriously, since PTSD is also directly related to increased personal violence, depression, and self-medicating behaviors, like drug and alcohol abuse. This is a cycle that began with the boarding schools, and genocide before that, and now it has gone on for generations.

Wellbriety Journey 2009

I like this new movement started by White Bison in Colorado. It’s called the Wellbriety movement, and it uses Native American cultural tools to help people overcome their addictions and other problems. I have an article about it on the Pretty Bird Woman House blog.

This year they are embarking on a cross-country trip called the Wellbriety Journey of Forgiveness. It for one is going to ask President Obama to issue an apology for sending Native Americans to boarding schools. There is precedent for this in Australia and Canada, so it’s not a far-fetched request. However, on the advice of a group of elders, they will be forgiving the U.S. whether or not the government issues an apology. Pretty interesting. It starts to get at the root of some of the cultural trauma that is the original source of the cycle of violence we see on reservations today.

I will not say that I have any kind of in depth knowlege after two weeks on the reservation in the winter, so I’d like to go back in the summer and see what I think then. It’s a very interesting and beautiful place, even though a lot of things about it area also pretty depressing.  

Lets Honor Joe Biden’s Family Like this

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Yesterday, Clammyc’s diary on the Daily Kos If not for Biden, she (and many other women) may be dead, which is about Biden’s authorship of Violence Against Women Act and a wrenching case of domestic violence from the 1970s, gave me an idea.

Since the Violence Against Women Act is what funds women’s shelters, among other things, and since Senator Biden just lost his mother-in-law, Bonny Jean Jacobs, why don’t we purchase a furnace for the Pretty Bird Woman House shelter in her memory?

Considering that Sarah Palin wants Alaskan women to buy their own rape kits and is against abortion even in case of rape or incest, and John McCain’s pathetic record on women’s issues buying Pretty Bird Woman House a new furnace also draws a stark contrast between our values, shared by the Obama/Biden ticket, and the McCain/Palin horror show.  

So what do you say? Are you in for say $5.

So, in gratitude for Biden’s work for women’s causes, lets honor his family and thank him for his authorship of the Violence Against Women Act by buying a furnace for a women’s shelter in Bonny Jean Jacobs’ name.

A furnace is the only big ticket item Pretty Bird Woman House still needs and it will run about $5,000 (we’ve already jumped up to over $700 of that) – the  board didn’t notice that the furnace was in poor condition when it purchased the house. Since winters in South Dakota can get to 20 below, pretty soon they’re going to really notice how poorly the furnace is working.

So, what do you say? Can you ChipIn something in the Biden family’s name? Even $5 is great, since we have so many people in this community.

I’ll have the shelter send an acknowledgement to Senator Biden when it’s all over.  

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.

    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 Needs a Coat of Paint +

    ( – promoted by navajo)

    This diary is an update on the Pretty Bird Woman House and a request for a few small donations. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this project, it’s a women’s shelter on the South Dakota side of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that the netroots came together to help in its time of need.  

    Anyway, the shelter has been operating for about a month, and wonderful things have been happening since they closed on the house in February.

    One exciting development has been that many members of the McLaughlin community have gone from being suspicious to being supporters. That’s one reason we’re raising money right now: a youth group from a local church as volunteered to paint the house.

    More below the fold.

    The Pretty Bird Woman House is Up and Running!

    As I said above, the shelter officially opened for business about a month ago.

    Despite the fact that they haven’t been able to get the fence up due to an incredible amount of inclement weather, it has been full.  Until the fence is installed (which it should be by the end of the month) the staff are taking women who feel that their spouses might stalk them to another one farther away. The security system was installed a while ago, so the women who do stay at the house are safe anyway. The local police department has also been increasing its patrols around the house.

    In April, Pretty Bird Woman House also co-sponsored a domestic violence workshop for all residents of the reservation, which was the first time something like that has happened there.

    In addition to being extremely successful as a conference, afterward two  elder women approached Georgia with the idea of doing talks at local schools on what love really is and developing self-respect, so the girls especially don’t think they have to put up with any kind of abuse. This group is still in the planning stages, but I thought it was a wonderful indication of the ripple effect that the shelter can have on the reservation.

    A couple of weeks ago, a youth group from local church approached Georgia with an offer of volunteer time this summer. As you will see from the photos below, since the house is sorely in need of a coat of paint, she asked them to paint it.

    Even Georgia was was surprised at how badly the paint is peeling when she took a closer look at it.

    peeling paint


    The youth group will be painting the house July 8th – 11th.

    Since this church doesn’t have affluent members, and therefore can’t send housepaint along with their kids, I have started a fundraiser for the paint and painting supplies.

    So far we have $175.01. To buy about 20 gallons of paint and brushes, scrapers, etc., I figure we’ll need about $800 more. That’s only 80 people giving $10 each, or 40 giving $20 each. I know people have been stretched thin by donating to the campaigns and $4 a gallon gas, but this is really just the price of a bottle of wine. So how about it?

    You can donateat the ChipIn page here,or by clicking the ChipIn widget at the Pretty Bird Woman House blog here

    A few more words about community support

    As some of you might remember, when the Pretty Bird Woman House board was in the process of buying the house, the City of McLaughlin, which is a non-Indian town in the middle of the Reservation, passed an ordinance mandating that all non-profits that were sheltering people get a permit first. This was in response to problems with a homeless shelter, but it also affected the PBWH. The first Town Council meeting was tense, and comments by a few Council members seemed to have racial overtones. We were worried. I diaried that here.

    However, afterward the Mayor and Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) came out publicly in support of the shelter. By the next meeting, the Council made a 360 degree turnaround, and unanimously approved the permit for the shelter.

    All of that made me wonder how the community would respond afterward.

    When Georgia told me what has been going on, I felt as if she were telling me about some Disney movie.

    The first time they needed their lawn cut, a woman from the Lutheran church, which had been the owner of the house, came over and mowed it herself.

    The next time it needed to be cut, the MAYOR himself showed up on his riding mower. Heh heh, when’s the last time your mayor cut YOUR lawn?

    And, then we had the youth group volunteering to help as well.

    So, let’s buy some house paint!

    Go here.

    Since more than 1,000 people donated to the first fundraiser, I figure this one should be a cinch.

    Another subject: anybody have any advice?

    Since I started this project, everything I see turns out to be an illustration of a larger problem.

    Georgia is having such severe back pain now that a doctor at a private clinic suggested she go on disability. Why? The Indian Health Service is refusing to approve a CAT scan or any other diagnostic test so the doctors can tell exactly what is wrong with her. Is it a disc issue, or arthritis, or something worse? If we leave it up to the IHS, she’ll never find out.

    Because the IHS has refused to either permit her to be properly diagnosed or send her to a chiropractor, or give her the proper amount of pain medication Georgia finally went to a private clinic, where at least they would give her an x-ray (don’t know the results).

    Just as bad, the IHS will only give her a prescription for a few pain killers at a time. That means that she has to drive 2 hours to the IHS office, or put up with more pain. If she doesn’t get proper medical attention soon, she might not be able to walk, in which case she might have go on disability anyway. Since Georgia lives for her job, that would be terrible on a number of levels.

    I know some of you will have some expert opinions I can pass on to her.

    I wanted to say “another WTF moment brought to you by George Bush,” but it’s just typical IHS behavior.

    So the larger issue is the IHS’s terrible medical care. We can see how local doctors recognize that Medicaid and Medicare both provide better service. How can we let this go on?

    I advised Georgia to call Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin’s office to see if one of the LAs there can help. The Congresswoman has been so supportive of the shelter, even buying it a washer and dryer, that I’m sure they’ll  help.

    Can anyone else think of something else Georgia could do to get proper medical care?

    What she had wanted to do was get Aflac or some other type of supplementary health insurance for the entire shelter staff just for these types of things, but their federal grant doesn’t cover that cost. She’s going to apply for a foundation grant for that, but that’s a crap shoot sometimes.

    So, if anyone has any ideas, let me know, and I’ll pass them on to Georgia.

    Again, thanks so much for all your support. Now I wish we could also help Georgia get some decent medical care.

    And, don’t forget. The shelter needs a new coat of paint. No contribution is too small not to be greatly appreciated. You can contribute here.

    If you like to shop, think shampoo and diapers!

    Pretty Bird Woman House Update: It’s a GO!

    ( – promoted by navajo)

    Cross posted from the Daily Kos

    First of all, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the Kossacks and other members of the netroots community for your commitment to the survival of the Pretty Bird Woman House.  Helping this shelter has been one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done, and some of that has to do with the outpouring of caring and compassion that I witnessed while I was doing this project.

    This morning I received an email informing me that the McLaughlin City Council had unanimously approved the shelter’s petition to operate in the house it wants to purchase. This was a wonderful accomplishment given some initial misgivings that some of the City Council Members had expressed.  

    For those who haven’t been following the story of the Pretty Bird Woman House, instead of pointing you to the numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS)diaries that Kossacks have written on the subject since May, I will simply direct you to the Pretty Bird Woman House blog, since it contains links to many of those diaries in addition to the essays that Andy T and I wrote as part of the fundraiser.

    Here’s the situation in a nutshell: On December 28th, a full month early, we met our goal of raising the $70,000 that we figured the shelter needed for a new house and security system. By that time, Georgia Little Shield, the director, had placed a bid on a house near the police station. The closing would have taken place on January 4th.

    Unfortunately, while all this was happening, the City of McLaughlin had passed an ordinance that required nonprofits seeking to establish a shelter or boarding house in a residential neighborhood to get the City’s permission first. This action was in response to drunk and disorderly conduct by the men in a homeless shelter in another neighborhood,

    On January 7th, the City Council held a hearing on the shelter’s petition. There was some initial opposition to the shelter by some of the Council members and neighborhood residents, so they put off voting on the issue in order to gather more information and give people more time to consider the issue.

    This made us all very uneasy, and I for one was waiting on pins and needles for the final decision.

    But as with everything involved in this project, the best in people finally came out.

    Last night, the Council unanimously voted to approve the shelter’s request. Unlike the first meeting, only positive remarks were made about the shelter staff and its future residents. As Georgia just told me:

    At that meeting, everybody was for us, nobody spoke up against us.

    This included the Chief of Police, who testified that the police really need the shelter to help them with women who are victims of domestic violence.

    So, in the end, it seems that the mayor recognized that the shelter’s opponents just needed more information, and that his move to postpone the vote was a wise one. Here’s what he told the Rapid City Journal today.

    “I think it’s going to be good. I think their hearts are in the right place,” Dumdei said of shelter officials. “Everyone’s trying to do what’s right. We just wanted to make sure that we had public input and everybody understands it.” …snip…

    Dumdei said it was important to give citizens time to ask questions and feel comfortable with the planned relocation of the shelter, which is the only domestic-violence sanctuary on the Standing Rock reservation.

    Amnesty International also provided a letter in support of the shelter, which the mayor cited at the meeting. Here is part of that letter (sorry I don’t have a link, it was emailed to me):

    Programs run by Native American and Alaska Native women are vital in ensuring the protection and long-term support of Indigenous women who have experienced sexual violence. Shelters operated by Native American women are particularly important in order to provide the culturally appropriate supportive environment needed.  However, lack of funding is a widespread problem all over the US, including in South Dakota – and in many locations no such support is available. In our report, we highlighted the work of Pretty Bird Woman House, a sexual assault and domestic violence program on the Standing Rock Reservation. At the time of Amnesty International’s report in April 2007 Pretty Bird Woman House did not have funding for direct services for its clients, but helped women to access services off the Reservation. Amnesty International believes that it is imperative that the Reservation have its own shelter.


    The support that Pretty Bird Woman House has received from individuals all over the US is indicative of the response that Amnesty International has seen to this issue in general. Many people feel deeply touched by the injustices suffered for decades by Native American women, and want to help. Authorities at all levels are responding as well – at the U.S. Senate level, legislation will be introduced within the next few weeks. In Oklahoma, state laws ensuring the availability of rape kits for all women have already been passed.

    The advocates, who have been running Pretty Bird Woman House for the past years with few funds but a lot of determination, have been fighting alone for too long. It is time that we stand up together and say no to violence against women – and time to support a shelter which will make all the difference in the world to women at a time when a helping hand is desperately needed.

    Today, they also issued a press release that contained this information and thanked the City Council for approving the shelter.

    It seems to me that the netroots worked really well in tandem with Amnesty International on this whole project, taking up the call they issued about the shelter in their report, United States of America: Maze of injustice: The failure to protect indigenous women from violence as its own cause.

    On Friday, Georgia is going to set a closing date on the house. When I find out exactly what it is, I’ll post it on the blog.

    Fundraiser Update

    Grand total of the money we raised: $87,000.

    People have also sent hundreds of pounds of clothes. SallyCat alone sent 350 pounds from a drive and party she conducted in San Francisco.

    The shelter is also going to be receiving a flurry of small checks because a retiree in Florida who read the Rapid City Journal articles asked that everyone who attended his birthday party last week send checks to the shelter in lieu of presents for him. Awwww…

    The official house fundraiser ends tomorrow. I will be putting up a new ChipIn with no goal amount for people who still want to donate.

    Work left to be done

    One snafu has come up. We were basing our estimate of the cost of a security system on the one the neighboring shelter has. Bad idea. For a system that has 24 hour monitoring, the estimated cost was $24,000. Yipes! And they will still need a fence as well.

    This means that the security system and fence will eat up a lot of the money they had set aside for furniture and a washer and dryer. So, when I spoke with Georgia today, she gave me a new wish list.

    I know most people have given all they can, but I also know from experience that other people will want to know how they can help some more. So this is for them (I don’t want guilt trip everyone else, you all have been amazing). Some of these are replacements for items that didn’t hold up too well either in the move or in storage.

    So for anyone so inclined to buy what I will call housewarming gifts, here’s what the shelter needs.


    washer and dryer

    8 bunk bed sets, and sheets to go on them

    couch and chairs

    television and stand

    dining room set (the one they had collapsed in the move)


    full and twin-size sheets

    8 dressers (2 for each bedroom)

    dishes and related kitchen supplies

    Again, Kossacks, on behalf of the shelter staff, I want to extend my deepest gratitude for all your support, compassion, and kind words.

    You know, a lot of us are tired of the sniping and griping that has been going on around here about the candidates, but take break from that for a second and think about what you have all done to help hundreds of women and children on the Standing Rock Reservation. It’s incredible. Pat yourselves on the back.

    One more note considering this is a Democratic blog. I want to pubically thank Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) for her support. She spoke out publicly in support of the shelter when there was opposition on the City Council, has visited it at least twice, and whenever anyone calls her office about it, her staff members are extremely helpful. This is exactly the kind of commitment we need from our representatives in Congress. Thank you!


    Pretty Bird Woman House Update: Why Isn’t Anything Easy in Indian Country?

    (crossposted on the Daily Kos and Street Prophets under betson08 and Docudharma under PiledHigherand Deeper – I guess I have an unstable identity!)

    I want to update everyone who has been involved in the Pretty Bird Woman House fundraiser on the situation with the house purchase.

    After you read this you might also ask: Why isn’t anything easy in Indian Country?

    While we were running this fundraiser, the City Council of McLaughlin, which exists as a separate entity within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation, passed an ordinance requiring that any nonprofit wishing to establish a boardinghouse or shelter in a residential area get the approval of the City Council first.

    This means that  even though Pretty Bird Woman House could have closed on the house on January 4th, they had to wait for a Council meeting on January 7th.

    Everyone was certain that after hearing about the shelter, the City Council would just say “of course you can” to their request.

    Not so.  

    Unfortunately, Georgia Little Shield, the shelter director, was attending a mandatory federal training associated with their new grant, so she was unable to go to the hearing. However, six representatives of PBWH and neighboring shelters did attend, including Jackie Brown Otter and a lawyer from the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Someone from the Lutheran church, the owner of the house the shelter bid on, also attended in support of the shelter.

    The new ordinance that is affecting the shelter was passed in response to complaints about the men residing in a homeless shelter in another neighborhood, since they were making nuisances of themselves. While I can’t blame the residents for wanting drunken men off of their lawns, the measure does seem draconian in relation to the size of the problem it sought to address.

    In general, reports from people who attended the meeting indicated that the ratio of support to opposition on the Council was about 60/40. Instead of voting on it that night, however, they decided to take the full 30 days allowed by the ordinance, and have another hearing.

    The problem they are having, which has definite racial overtones, generally seems to stem from the fact that some of the members of the community could not conceptually distinguish between a homeless shelter, which houses men with emotional and drug problems, and a women’s shelter, which houses women who are escaping abuse, and want nothing more than a safe place to stay and to be as unobtrusive as possible. This is quite the opposite of a homeless shelter.

    One reason for hope for a positive resolution was that Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth publicly came out in favor of the shelter in a recent Rapid City Journal articleabout the shelter. By the way, that paper also carried a very nice article about the shelter and the netroots fundraising efforts, which you can see here.

    The Congresswoman seems to have become a champion of this cause, and programs to assist domestic violence victims in Indian Country in general. Kudos and applause to her!

    And, without trying to dictate to the city council, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., nonetheless has made it clear that her heart is with the shelter as it searches for a permanent home.

    “I’m not going to get involved in that (council vote),” Herseth Sandlin said earlier this week. “But I do hope that our efforts in making greater resources available to those isolated reservations will be a factor in the decision making — to know that a member of their congressional delegation is paying particular attention and wanting to be partners in their effort to have a safer community.”

    Herseth Sandlin visited the Pretty Bird Woman House twice last year and supported Congressional bills with additional financial resources for law-enforcement and domestic-violence programs on reservations.

    But she went further. The article notes that after visiting the burned shelter back in October:  

    …Herseth Sandlin returned to McLaughlin with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, as well as congressional staffers. They stopped by the shelter apartment, which had by then been abandoned, and met with federal and local law-enforcement officials, shelter representatives and Dumdei.

    After the visit, Dicks inserted language into an omnibus appropriations bill expressing his concern that “methamphetamine use, violence against women and other serious crimes have reached epidemic levels in certain areas of Indian Country,” and directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to increase the level of law enforcement and criminal prosecution in such areas.

    That doesn’t provide more money specifically for Standing Rock but directs BIA to focus more resources on isolated areas where law officers are scarce. Herseth Sandlin said the October Congressional stop was part of the inspiration for adding that language into the spending bill. It also helped raise awareness in Congress about the issues of domestic violence and inadequate law enforcement on isolated reservations, she said.

    “I think it has been very important to keep raising awareness about the epidemic of various crimes, especially domestic violence, and the inadequate staffing levels of BIA officers,” she said.

    Again, thank you Congresswoman Herseth!

    Additionally, the Mayor, who is in somewhat of a bind here, was quoted in the same article:

    Mayor Ron Dumdei said this week that he and council members appreciate the value of the shelter but also must consider the concerns of members of the community. Some citizens worry that the shelter could again be victimized by vandals and pose other potential threats to the community in its new location.

    “I understand their need for a shelter, but I also have to be sensitive to the other community folks who have concerns about it,” Dumdei said. “We’ll do what we can to make things right.”

    He seems to have good intentions here, so that’s another good sign.

    Another issue that arose during the meeting was what seems to have been a misconception about the local police authority to arrest Indians. Because McLaughlin has a white police department operating inside an Indian reservation, according to one opponent of the shelter, the white police officers have no jurisdiction, so it wouldn’t matter whether or not the shelter is close to a police station (was that a wtf moment for you? It was for me).

    This is plainly not true. There are jurisdictional issues that make it difficult to hold people, but they can be arrested, as the Mayor’s statement to the Rapid City Journal reflected:

    Jurisdiction issues between the tribe, federal agencies and state and local law enforcement officers create problems as well, Dumdei said. Non-Native officers who apprehend tribal lawbreakers may only hold them until they can be picked up by the federal officers, Dumdei said.

    The jurisdictional issues make it difficult for nontribal law enforcement to be effective, he said.

    “It creates some problems here. But we’re trying to work it out,” Dumdei said. “What we want to do is provide a safe community. It’s a complicated issue, but we’re going to do the best with what we’ve got.”

    Unfortunately, though, the original argument was not quashed at the meeting. In any case, as Georgia told me by phone yesterday, there has not been one case in South Dakota of a batterer attacking a women’s shelter. What happened to the shelter was vandalism, and we do not know the race of the vandals. The shelter needs to be in a safe area for the safety of the women inside it, just in case they are stalked, as well as to to deter  vandals, but not because any batterers are likely to attack the shelter.

    During the upcoming 30 days, the Council will hold another town meeting and give Georgia a chance to talk about the shelter. That will also give the women’s shelter advocates in the area some time to educate the residents about exactly what a shelter is and does.


    Georgia also told me that one other thing they will immediately do is create a Plan B for purchase of a house. Since they could not close on a house on Jan.4th, as originally planned, they are now technically out of compliance with the grant that provides for operational expenses for the house. Thank God for the fundraiser. If they have to renovate some other house farther away from town, they will now be able to. Lets hope that doesn’t happen.

    Right now, we’re not asking for letters to anyone in McLaughlin, except thank yous to Congressional Reps. Herseth and Dicks for their support. I think it is entirely possible that the members of the Council who oppose the shelter will come to their senses after they have been educated about what a women’s shelter really is, especially with more press coverage of the situation. This may just be another bureaucratic delay.

    While I wait, what I am going to do is research the history behind these  towns on Indian reservations in the Dakotas. Some of the social relationships that have been described to me since I have become involved with this project are so oddly 19th century that sometimes I have difficulty overcoming my disbelief at what I’m hearing. I need to educate myself on this.

    And things are just as messed up at the federal level too, which reinforces these problems.  Senator Dorgan has developed a concept paper with ideas for legislation to improve law enforcement in Indian Country. We really need to change federal laws that create conditions where people are treated differently by law enforcement just because of their race. You can read that paper here

    Senator Dorgan is requesting comments on this paper.

    Well, there you have it. This situation still embodies what Native American women face when they try to make change in their community. I feel so great to be able to say that now they’ve got the netroots behind them.

    P.S.You can still get lots more information, and until the end of the month donate too, at the PBWH blog

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

    ( – promoted by navajo)

    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





    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


    Radical Doula


    Street Prophets

    Flux at Suicide Girls – this website is NSFW!

    The Unapologetic Mexican

    Vox ex Machina


    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!


    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.

    Pretty Bird Woman House Update: YOU are buying THIS house!

    ( – promoted by navajo)

    I thought I’d give you an update on what was going on with the fundraiser for this shelter. Georgia Little Shield, the director, has used the money we have raised so far to place a bid on the house you see in the photos below.

    We need donations urgently right now since there was only enough money for a really low bid, so that makes things still a bit tenuous. And then there will be closing costs and a security system. But even though we haven’t sealed the deal yet, we’re coming very close!

    The amazing part of this project is that the individual efforts of a bunch of bloggers are making such a big difference to a group of women. This is what a community is really about.  And were else can you see donations doing something so huge so fast?  

    Here are the photos of the house. Isn’t it great!

    Front View:

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Living Room:

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Kitchen, View 1

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Kitchen, View 2

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Dining Room:

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    There is also a huge basement, which will house a children’s playroom, and a small thrift shop to support the shelter, and has great general potential.

    The next large item is a security system. With security cameras. A good one (which is a must in this situation) is at least $7,000 installed. And then we’ll need a fence. That’s going to be another large chunk of change. Since this is a one story house, and we don’t want batterers to try to get into those bedrooms at night, the fence is vital in addition to the security system. We don’t want a repeat of the theft and vandalism either.

    If you haven’t donated yet, you can make a huge difference right now because they’re at a crucial point in the house purchase process, and things are still a little shaky. Go here to donate and get all the info you could possibly want on the shelter if you have missed the story up until now.

    There will be needs after the house purchase, which is why I am keeping the goal at $70,000 despite the fact that of the 2 houses available, they’re bidding on the lower-priced one.

    Because of the prior theft they’re also going to need a TV, VCR, DVD player, and the entertainment center to put them on. Boy it really sucks that they got so much stuff stolen! They’re also going to need a washer and dryer, as well as new dressers, 2 more bunk beds, and 2 more double beds, since more women and children will be housed here than in the other shelter. They also will need extra couches and chairs because the living room is so big, and the outside of the house needs a new coat of paint.

    Those items are all important, but the money to seal the deal for the house and buy the security system is the most urgent.

    So please everyone, keep passing the word. We are SO close.

    I want to raise $10K more by Christmas. If the sellers accept the current bid that much will cover closing costs and the security system so the women can move right in. If they don’t accept the bid, it will allow them to increase it slightly and still cover closing costs. In any case, we’re SO close to this being a huge netroots coup for the shelter!

    P.S. The shelter also just received another federal grant. If we can get this house, that grant will pay for utilities, food and other expenses. It’s also funding another advocate. So, we’ve got great long-term viability here, we just need to help them with their infrastructure! They are also planning a domestic violence conference for April that will be free for all Standing Rock residents. Georgia just never quits, even in the middle of all this house chaos!

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    (by Tigana)