As I write this, it's 11 degrees and snowing in Isabel, South Dakota. With the wind chill, it feels like one degree above zero. The high today was supposed to get all the way up to 15, but the current forecast indicates that it's not likely to make it; the projected low for tonight is one below.
UPDATE 5: Avilyn has offered a new $100 match to launch us on our way toward NMRed's match! C'mon, folks - we can do this!
UPDATE 4: Lorikeet's match has been met, and we have a new match offered: As of 4:30 PM MST, we are currently at $2,000 even. If we an hit $4,500 tonight, NMRed has generously offered to kick in the final $500 to bring us to our $5K goal! So please, Kossacks, share this link everywhere you can, and encourage non-Kossacks to get involved.
UPDATE 3: Courtesy of Lorikeet, a new $200 match, effectively immediately!
UPDATE 2: Match reached, courtesy of weck! Any new matches lurking out there?
UPDATE: Matching funds already! Kossack Avilyn has donated $50, and will also match the next $50 that comes in.
Now that Christmas is over, it's time to get down to the business of winter. And winter is the season of cold, of fear, of hunger and worse.
You've seen all the photos. And I'm profoundly grateful to this community, which has given so much to save the lives of Indian children, families, and elders in places that time and the rest of the nation have long since forgotten. But the effects of 500+ years' worth of colonialism and genocide don't disappear after one fundraiser, or two, or even two or three or ten or twenty years' worth of them.
The need is almost indescribable.
So today, I just want to talk to you about why this particular effort is so important. I want to try to draw you a picture, so to speak, of what conditions are really like, of what the risks really are, and what's at stake here in lives - the lives of individuals, and the life of an entire culture.
This will not be a fun diary to read. But people need to bear witness to the effects of history - and beyond that, to internalize those lessons, and then to take action, both to ameliorate today's effects and to prevent their recurrence.
So if you can't give in dollars, please simply share what's here with your networks, both online and in real life. You never know when the right person at the right time will see it - and, indeed, we've had that happen with at least one lurker here at Daily Kos, who has since done a great deal both for Okiciyap and for the Propane Project at Rosebud.
But if you can give financially - whether you're looking at an end-of-year charitable deduction, or you can afford only a widow's mite - please consider this project. This is one effort where you have the security of knowing that your donation will make a real, viable, lifesaving difference.
Over the jump, some additional incentives:
"REMOVAL" OF INDIAN CHILDREN AND "ROUGH JUSTICE"
There is a long history in this country of stealing Indian children from their families and homes. In decades past, it was accomplished through a micro-level expansion of the federal government's macro-level official "Indian policy" of removal: in the case of Indian children,
removal outright theft from their families, homes, and lands, to be imprisoned in boarding schools where they could more easily be stripped of everything that made them who they were - i.e., Indian. As in one side of my own family, thefts disguised as "adoptions" were also common - commonly brokered by the Church, but with the endorsement and complicity of government officials. In more recent years, religious entities have sometimes become more subtle, as was Wings's experience as a teenager, being stolen from his own family and sent to live out and serve a white man's religion.
In recent decades, the Indian Child Welfare Act [ICWA] was supposed to address these horrors. Imagine my [utter lack of] surprise to discover that, in some parts of Indian Country, not really all that much has changed.
A Kossack friend of mine brought this story to my attention late yesterday:
A group of Native American children were claiming sexual and physical abuse by their white adoptive parents, whose home they first entered as foster children.
South Dakota was already under Congressional scrutiny for the high number of Native children it takes from their homes and tribes and then places, for the most part, with white foster families or in white-run group homes—seemingly to claim a higher share of federal foster care funding. Though Native children make up about 13 percent of South Dakota’s child population, they are typically more than 50 percent of those in care, according to federal figures.
The state’s response to the Native children’s accusations against their white parents offers a rare look into South Dakota’s foster care system, which places 9 in 10 Native children in foster care with white families or white-run group homes. The state’s actions also raise questions about the commitment of officials to protect Native children taken from their natural families, particularly when homes that are presented as safe havens turn into places of abuse.
This has long been an ongoing problem with Indian child "removal." As though being abducted - kidnapped - from one's family weren't abuse enough, Indian children who were "rescued" in such a manner often found themselves placed with families who refused to grant them full status as family members; used them as slave labor; deprived them of their language, cultural, and spiritual traditions; and inflicted physical and emotional abuse on them on a daily basis. But for many Indian children, those abuses paled compared to the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of white "foster" or "adoptive" families whose very job - compensated by the state, you understand - was supposed to be to protect them
. And while I've always known that the ICWA often functioned as little more than a band-aid. I was still shocked and physically sickened by this latest report:
Startlingly, the agents who summoned the children to the interrogation that day in November 2011 were working hard to get the youngsters to recant their abuse claims. Sheriff’s deputies had taken the children out of school, court records show, and brought them to the basement room, with its table, chairs, one-way mirror, and recording equipment. One by one, the children faced Agent Mark Black of the Department of Criminal Investigations and a partner. The children were each alone, without an adult present on their behalf.
While being questioned by the agents, the children became fearful and wept, according to someone familiar with the case who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The youngsters were apparently not told they were being recorded. While left alone for a time, one explored the room, discovered the camera equipment behind a peephole, and began to cry.
I see a lot of complaints about the heavy hand of government. I listen to a lot of crap about "jack-booted thugs" and similar whining from people of privilege who have never known what real abuse is. I'd like to see them exhibit the courage and strength of character stand up to this, as these children have done:
One agent says the children “have been f—ing with us.” The men talk about questioning the therapist to whom the children described the sexual assaults. Agent Black says, “I guarantee we put [her] in here. Put the f—ing hot screws in her. Bitch you’re in f—ing deep shit. You better start talking.” Later Black says, “At least we f— with Brandon.”
The whole article
Brandon Taliaferro was the deputy state’s attorney who brought charges against the adoptive parents in 2010, following a police investigation of the children’s abuse allegations. The charges included nearly three dozen felonies, including incest, rape, sexual exploitation and cruelty toward five children, the youngest 5 years old when the alleged abuse started in 2003. Shirley Schwab, the children’s court-appointed special advocate, supported Taliaferro’s action. Local news media followed the case avidly as it developed.
Since the interrogation, Agent Black has testified multiple times that his questioning aimed to get the children to recant their abuse claims and to say that Taliaferro and Schwab had encouraged them to lie about the abuse, but the youngsters never did. Nevertheless, the state moved on the two whistleblowers, raiding their homes and offices and hitting them with felony and misdemeanor charges related to persuading the children to lie. Later testimony would indicate that investigators had turned up no evidence of this.
is worth reading, but you need a strong stomach and a certain ruthlessness of purpose to do so.
So what connection does this have to Okiciyap?
VIOLENCE IN INDIAN COUNTRY
Actually, a very significant one. One that directly affects the women, children, and families of the Cheyenne River Reservation (among others) - the very community that Georgia Little Shield founded Okiciyap to serve.
I've written at great length, in multiple venues, about domestic violence and sexual assault in Indian Country. And as I said in a comment in Denise Oliver Velez's important front-page diary a couple of weeks ago:
By the Numbers
One in every three Native American women will be raped at least once during her lifetime.
One in three.
At least once.
That's more than twice the rate for any other ethnic group in the U.S.
I've sat with some of these women, heard their stories, shared their pain and grief and fear. And I've shared their frustration with the knowledge that, some 86% of the time, their rapists were virtually untouchable.
Because with very few exceptions, tribal authorities have had no jurisdiction over non-Indian criminal offenders - and 86% of rapes of Native women are committed by non-Indian rapists (70% are white).
There's a significant and deadly difference in rape statistics as they relate to Native women:
Among rape victims in the general population, 74% report being physically battered in additional ways during the commission of the rape. For Native women, that number jumps to 90%.
Among the general population, 30% of rape victims report sustaining other physical injuries, in addition to the rape itself. Among Native women, that number is 50%.
Roughly 11% of rape victims as a whole report that their rapist used a weapon. For Native women, that number more than triples, to 34%.
Taken in historical context, and coupled with the fact that 86% of all rapes of Native women are committed by non-Indians, it's hard to escape the conclusion that something even more insidious is at work here.
Why does this matter?
It matters because, until [President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act in 2010], the vast majority of Native women rape survivors had little or no legal recourse: Even where the victim is a tribal member, tribal authorities have had no jurisdiction over non-Native defendants. With limited exceptions, only federal authorities have had jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on tribal lands -- and historically, cases involving violence against Native women have received little to no attention. As I've noted elsewhere, "[f]ederal authorities routinely decline to prosecute more than 50 percent of all violent crimes committed in Indian Country; the rate of declination is much higher for sexual assault cases."
Georgia herself was painfully aware of the effects of sexual and other violence on both children and adults. It's what prompted her to launch Pretty Bird Woman House years ago. And it's part of what prompted her to launch Okiciyap - because she saw, first-hand, the links between abuse and poverty, abuse and hunger, abuse and the staggering rate of Indian youth suicide
"A SUICIDE EPIDEMIC AMONG OUR YOUTH"
And so, along with feeding hungry mouths and stomachs, she hoped that Okiciyap would someday similarly work, in a formal capacity, to feed children's empty souls and spirits. To help prevent at least some of the suicides that have reached epidemic proportions among our Indian young people.
Two days from now, it will be exactly one year since I wrote the following:
You know when I was 7 years old and would pray for God to come get my dad as he was a very violent White man that verbally and physical to all 5 of us children. When God did not come get my dad I told my mom that God was going to come get me on May 15, This was when I was 7 years old. I figured that out when I attended a few sessions with a great Councillor that I was already thinking of dying. At seven years old. So many children are going through this now. This why I am working so hard to get this building up to Isabel as it will provide a place for the children go and feel welcomed and feed. We are going to have after school activities and tutors to help those children that need help. Please help us keep our children safe and secure.
~ Georgia Little Shield, on why the Okiciyap building is so desperately needed.
Georgia gave express permission to use this quote.
This diary is going to be very frank about a tragedy, another ongoing link in the genocidal chain of "Indian policy" in this country. It's also going to be very personal at some points. It may be difficult to read. Please read it anyway.
For far too long, there has been a silent epidemic spreading among the young people in our Indian nations. No one talks about it; it's too fraught with fear and shame and blame and guilt. The outside world doesn't know, and mostly wouldn't give a damn anyway. What are a few more "good Indians?"
The word itself drips with ugly connotations. And lots of people are all too happy to pop-psychoanalyze our children, tell them why they don't need to feel this way, tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps even though they don't even have moccasins. But too few people among our own communities - and virtually nobody outside them - actually makes an effort to understand the root of the problem and correct it.
That's where Georgia Little Shield comes in.
Because she's been there. Read that passage again:
You know when I was 7 years old and would pray for God to come get my dad as he was a very violent White man that verbally and physical to all 5 of us children. When God did not come get my dad I told my mom that God was going to come get me on May 15, This was when I was 7 years old. I figured that out when I attended a few sessions with a great Councillor that I was already thinking of dying. At seven years old.
The hell of it is, I know how seven-year-old Georgia felt. Hell, I was seven-year-old Georgia. I know what it's like to grow up in an environment of fear and violence, and I know what it's like to pray that God - whomever and whatever that might be - would make it all stop. By any means necessary.
I remember times in my childhood where I lived in a near-perpetual state of terror. I certainly lived in a perpetual state of guilt. And I remember thinking how much better off I'd be if I simply weren't here anymore - so that I wouldn't have to feel. Anything. Because everything I did feel was killing me.
And for us, it's too often an intergenerational thing. I remember my father telling me stories of how he, too, used to pray for God to come and get him, to take him away from the abuse and the bullying and the feeling of being unloved, unwanted, utterly abandoned. Of course, with the non-traditional religious indoctrination visited upon him by his mother, he never would've admitted to such a sin as wanting to commit suicide. He gussied it up in his mind into something different. But I understood.
And he could never seem to make the leap between how he was abused as a child and how he treated his own children. In his mind, he was the good parent, doing it "because he loved his children so much." And so his own childhood torment repeated itself, visited upon his own offspring.
I got out. For long years, I stayed way the hell away from anything connected to my background. I shoved it down, buried it deep - so deep I thought it would never be able to get out again. But the past doesn't stay buried. Understanding, with the benefit of adult hindsight, doesn't erase the pain. It doesn't even keep the pain from coming back when the world starts to disintegrate again.
And for our children today, it's not at all past. It's their present, their now, and when it isn't being stolen from them directly, they're throwing it away because they've lost all hope in basic survival.
Genocide by other means.
Byron Dorgan tried to tackle the issue. As he noted in a piece that was published by the APA last year:
The rate of suicide for American Indian and Alaska Natives is far higher than that of any other ethnic group in the United States—70% higher than the rate for the general population of the United States. American Indian and Alaska Native youth are among the hardest hit. They have the highest rate of suicide for males and females, ages 10 to 24, of any racial group.
Think about that for a moment. To most of the country, we're utterly invisible - nothing more than caricatures on a movie screen. And our children are choosing to leave this existence at a rate higher than in any other ethnic group in this country.
The numbers shame all of American society:
The rate of suicide among Native American youth, ages 15 to 24, is the highest of any racial or age group in the United States[.] Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native Americans between the ages of 10 and 34 years[.] The Native youth have an average suicide rate 2.2 times higher than the national average for their adolescent peers of other races [citations omitted].
The reasons are legion. At bottom, though, lies the fundamental fact that their lives are too often filled with racism, near-unimaginable financial hardship, and constant reminders that the larger culture cares nothing for their lives, much less their needs. When a young person from one of our nations ends his or her life, and people ask why, their friends will reply with a horrible, brutal truth that no one wants to hear - and I've seen and heard variants of this from all over the country:
She felt that no one cared whether she lived or died. And then when [another youth from the same tribe] committed suicide, and she saw how people cried and cared about [that person], she decided that she was better off dead. Then maybe people would care about her, too.
No, it's not a direct quote, because I don't have it in me right now to go digging for the painful examples that contain the precise words used. Suffice to say that variations of this have appeared over and over and over again when one of our children takes his or her own life.
This is what Georgia wants to stop.
Because of the holidays and the cold weather, we've been focusing on the food pantry aspect of the project, trying to keep families alive for one more winter. But we need to keep our young people's souls and spirits alive, too, and that's what the other aspect of Okiciyap is designed to do.
I spent last night by turns seething, and fuming, and inwardly weeping for those courageous children in the first part of this diary - who were strong enough and brave enough to stand up to those who would harm them, hurt them, break them.
I did not want to revisit this subject again so soon. I did not want to think about it, or about all the ways in which I've been broken, or about all the ways in which criminals in the guise of "guardians," whether foster families or state agencies, conspire to break these children anew.
But I have to think about it. Because one year later, not enough has changed.
So if you've made it this far, if you've decided to bear witness to this ongoing annihilation of the spirit, please consider doing something practical to help.
I know a lot of folks have offered up gifts of bulk foods, warm clothing, books, toys, educational items, and a vast array of other goods for Okiciyap's clientele. And those are all important.
But Georgia's dream of a safe haven for these children, with a youth center dedicated in part to suicide prevention, will never be realized without one fundamental thing: Money. So if you're contemplating giving but are not sure whether goods or dollars are most useful at the moment, let me make it simple: It's dollars. And if this diary has moved you specifically to want to give in a way that will help bring this aspect of Georgia's dream to fruition, at this stage, only dollars will accomplish that.
I don't want to discourage donations of items that are needed. For that, there's a shipping address below. But one of the aspects of this project that is closest to my heart is the one that saves young Indian lives by giving children safety and support. So if you'd like to help, please give through the widget below. The current goal is $5,000; we've only raised something less than $1,400 so far. But this one of those rare opportunities where you can be rewarded not merely psychologically, but financially, with a tax deduction, for helping to save a life.
Join me. And Georgia's memory and spirit. And her sister Cindy Taylor, who's continuing her work. And betson08 and the entire team of dedicated Kossacks who have devoted so much to this project for so long.
Help us save some more lives.
Please use this widget to make a tax-deductible donation for food and other needs:
To mail checks or packages directly to the pantry, please use this address:
Cindy A Taylor
P. O. Box 172
Isabel, SD 57633-0172
In addition, betson08 has registered Okiciyap with iGive, which means that your online purchases from participating retailers could automatically generate a donation. Here's the link for more details: http://www.iGive.com/....