In late April, after Amnesty International released a report on the problem of sexual violence against Native American women that included a story about the how the Pretty Bird Woman House was in danger of closing its doors, this community rallied to its support. I did too, and then joined a team of volunteers to support the long-term viability of the shelter. On that front, I have some good news, some bad news, and a request for help.
The good news is that this fall Georgia Littleshield, the shelter's director, procured a 3-year Federal grant for the program to pay salaries and travel expenses. This means that during the summer, the shelter would not have been able to assist women in danger or advocate for a woman in court had the netroots not provided interim support.
The bad news is that the building they were in was broken into so many times by people who smashed through exterior walls to gain entrance that it became unsafe safe for anyone to stay there. So, the Pretty Bird Woman House lost its house. To add insult to injury, somebody torched the building the day after they moved out.
But the good news is that the Tribal Council now fully supports the shelter, and has given them free office space and storage for their furniture until they can find a permanent home. Since there is a chronic housing shortages on the reservation, this is usually easier said than done.
Before I share a letter that Georgia has asked me to post for everyone who donated the last time, I thought I'd provide some information for the folks who weren't around or didn't notice the Daily Kos efforts last spring.
Some Background on the Netroots' Effort to Save the Pretty Bird Woman House
Beginning on April 26, nbier wrote a series of diaries here, here, here, and here that alerted us to the problems the shelter was having, and then he created a ChipIn page to raise money so it could stay open. At the same time, Devilstower wrote a great article called Here There Be Monsters, on the Amnesty International report, Maze of Injustice, which raised our awareness of the issues facing Native American women in this country. Did your blood boil as much as mine did when you found out that not only will 1 in 3 Native American women be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, but that these crimes are committed mostly by non-native men who rarely if ever are prosecuted? And that many hospitals serving Native American populations don't even have rape kits or staff trained to deal with rape victims? What country is this again? A rich country, a democracy? Alas, it is, and injustice does in fact pre-date the Bush Administration.
Other people who did diaries included flautist and sarac, who wrote why donations and grantwriters were needed, respectively. Soon, njgoldfinch also posted a diary encouraging people to donate, which Devilstower followed with another great post. Njgoldfinch then wrote the final diary on the issue, announcing that the fundraiser had not only met, but had exceeded its goal, and that the Pretty Bird Woman House would in fact stay open until the next grant cycle. That diary generated more than 500 comments.
Incidentally, I joined the Daily Kos because of those diaries, which came up when I was Googling to find the Amnesty report. Before that, blogging was an abstract concept to me. After reading those diaries I was so impressed by how caring this community is that I wanted to become part of it too.
A letter to you from Georgia Littleshield
The other day, after discussing the shelter's housing problem with Georgia, she sent me a letter and asked me to post it. Here it is. I was not able to reproduce their nice letterhead.
How do they do all of that with only 3 people and so little money? They must be exhausted. Actually, they do more than that.
Date: October 23, 2007
To: Those of you that donated to the Pretty Bird Woman House
Fr: Georgia Little Shield/Director
Want to thank all of you that have so graciously given from your heart to help the women here on the Standing Rock Reservation. With your helpful dollars we have provided the services for One hundred and eighty eight women (188) and One hundred and thirty two children (132). We answered three hundred and ninety seven (397) CRISIS CALLS. What we did with your dollars was to pay for the three employees that provide these services for the women. We also paid for the phone and crisis lines. It is so great to be able to do the work when you have so much more to give. We had since then received a three year grant from the federal government. This will keep the workers paid but we still have the shelter crisis that we are with out a shelter. We are located on a 2.3 million acre reservation and have yet only one to two officers that cover the whole reservation per shift. With the lack of officers we were unable to prevent vandalism to the shelter that we were in. We had three break-ins to the shelter and a lot of food was taken and the large TV that was donated to us. The second break in they stole our computers. The vandals were coming through the walls. Breaking through the sheet rock, we had to move out to assure the safety of the women and children. We are currently looking for a new shelter home. We are doing a fund raiser to begin a fund for a shelter and a fence that will protect the area with a surveillance system.
Oh must tell you what changes are happening on the front of the Amnesty International report. 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. This angered the District Attorney of South Dakota. That men can be upstanding citizens, and do these things to Native women, and be accepted back into the community as if they did nothing wrong. Finally some one is seeing our problem and correcting it. The man did get 33 months incarceration and three years probation.
If you could please post this to the blog and thank you so much for all your support in getting a change started.
Georgia Little Shield/Director
Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin SD 57642
More information from the Pretty Bird Woman House annual report.
Numbered Served 614More information on that court case
Women Served 188
Protection Orders 23
Restraining Orders 6
Crisis Calls 397
Gave Gas 38
Court Advocacy Support 28
Community Education Served 360
The Pretty Bird Woman House has served 614 individuals with education and services. We are working on many things that need to be improved. One is the Sexual assault and Protocol of police and information of sexual assaults.
There have been many bumps in our road and mounds that we have plowed. One not having a shelter has really decreased our ability to shelter the women of Standing Rock Reservation. WE are still sending the women away to other shelters. This also increases the amount we spend on travel. Not having computer impaired us for a while but as of this week we now have three computers. We are proud to announce that we now have full support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. That is one mound that was conquered this year. We also had the Amnesty International release the “Maze of Injustice for Native Women”. This is a big hurtle for all Native women.
We still work closely with the Sacred Heart Center and the Bridges Against Domestic Violence. With the support of these women we are making a difference in our area.
Here is more on the case Georgia talks about in her letter. It illustrates the progress that has been made, and the influence of the Amnesty report, but it also shows how far we need to go. A local bar owner had hired a young woman to clean the bar on an occasional basis. One night he asked her to go over and clean it, but once she got there he locked her in the building and sexually assaulted her. Luckily, her boyfriend was very supportive and took her to one of the few hospitals equipped to handle these types of cases. The Pretty Bird Women House staff then advocated for her in court. The Mayor's testimony angered the South Dakota District Attorney, who cited all the publicity the Amnesty report was giving to this issue, and he told the judge that it was time to put these people in jail. Nonetheless, at first there was a hung jury. However, because the state was determined to go to trial again, the man then plead guilty. He also had to close down his bar because of all of this. Good.
THE HOUSING CRISIS
As you can see, the Pretty Bird Woman House needs a new house now! Taking women to different shelters off the reservation strains the capacity of the other shelters and diminishes the ability of the PBWH staff to serve the women, especially because of the long distances involved in transporting them.
Pretty Bird Woman House lost its home through no fault of its own. However, as luck would have it, there is a house for sale right across from the police station. The price is around $60,000, but I figure with closing costs, an electric fence, and a security system, they really need around $70,000.
A house is also key for the shelter's long-term viabliity.
So, here's what I've done.
First, I've created a PRETTY BIRD WOMAN HOUSE BLOG as a clearinghouse for information and discussion on the shelter, the issues, and this fundraiser.
Second, I started a CHIPIN CAMPAIGN. The goal is $70,000. Any money that is collected beyond that will go towards buying furniture and appliances for the house.
Lets all pitch in again! You know, it took hardly any time at all to fund Cheers and Jeers, and even less time to raise the money to keep the Pretty Bird Woman House open in May. I'm excited to see what could happen this time because of nature of the people in this community.
So, please: everyone, condense, rewrite, plagarize, and otherwise take possession of the information in this diary. Copy the ChipIn widget and post it everywhere. Send the blog link around in your emails, link it to your own blogs, and add the PBWH blog to your blog roll.
You know, lately, most of us have felt that we have been banging our heads against the wall trying to make change happen in the country. This is one thing we can do as a community that is guaranteed to make a big difference.
UPDATE. There is now a chipin page. This actually keeps track of the contributions in a more real time than you will see on widgets on other pages. It's not really straightforward in anyway, so just use this Pretty Bird Woman House ChipIn page link.