Vi Waln: Violence far too common on Rosebud Sioux Reservation

The construction of Rosebud’s new adult correctional facility is now happening. Pine Ridge is also building a new jail. People talk about how the money funding the development of these new facilities might be better used elsewhere. I agree we could use more money to fund projects such as youth centers.

But until people learn how to behave themselves there will always be a need for jails. I live on an Indian Reservation with a high rate of domestic violence. There is no denying the fact that we have many who abuse others living here. I see pain everywhere.

If enough people asked me to write about domestic violence against women and children every week I would do so. I am seriously considering making domestic violence updates from the rez a regular topic here. Of course, I am biased because I am a woman who has children and grandchildren.

So, my readers are going to have to accept my strong opinions against men who abuse women. The fact is I will continue to write about how violent people are until they learn to heal themselves. It seems to me that the abusers are never the victim until they are facing a jail sentence.

Many of us have heard all the excuses. A fairly common one is “she made me mad.” It is easy to give away our power and blame something or someone outside ourselves for allowing our emotions to explode uncontrollably. You can’t blame everything you do on others. Individuals must learn to accept responsibility for their personal choices.

It’s exhausting to live our lives blaming others for the way things are. I can no longer blame the government, alcohol, drugs, the tribe or my family for the way my life is. I realize we all grow up with problems but we aren’t required to carry those issues and emotions around for our entire life.

There are many men who regularly abuse their wives, girlfriends, children and other female relatives. I am also aware of abusive women out there too but this column is not about them, it is about the men we allow to abuse us and our children. Abuse is not always physical either. There are plenty of men with diseased minds who choose to terrorize their families through mental, emotional or spiritual harassment.

No woman should have to live in fear of an intimidating, brutal man. I encourage you women who are reading this to get away from the coward who terrorizes you. A coward will quickly back off when confronted with a man of equal size. These brutes have no problem threatening to kill a woman or child but they will often turn to run away whimpering from a real man who stands up in defense of women and children.

Please stop allowing him to manipulate you! Men with sick, demented minds will try to make women believe it is her fault for the way things are. For instance, I know of a situation where a young coward held the mother of his child hostage for hours and assaulted her repeatedly. Their child saw everything. The woman wound up with broken bones. The case is in tribal court. I wonder what the child thinks of the father now after witnessing all that violence.

Still, the man seeks to manipulate the woman into believing it is her fault. He denies the violent acts he is accused of despite the woman’s broken bones. He lies to the court and continues to threaten her with death. He seeks control through intimidation. He also avoids her male relatives.

Obviously, he is a maniac because he is convinced that it is okay to assault a woman, who is half his size, in front of their small child. And people are still screaming that we do not need a new jail on Rosebud? It will be no surprise when the new jail is quickly filled with men serving automatic sentences imposed as a result of domestic violence convictions.

Consequently, Rosebud was also chosen for a demonstration grant under the Defending Childhood Initiative which was created to address children’s exposure to violence. Our children witness violence at overwhelming rates. My rez was one of only two tribal communities chosen to receive initial funding for this project. Our children grow up watching their parents engage in violent confrontations like it is a normal thing. No wonder our people are so vicious.

Still, there are people who act as if there is no violence happening in our communities. But violence is a big problem. When people start to heal there will be no need to fund new jails or to hire more prosecutors. When people straighten up we will no longer have to call numerous meetings to figure out ways to help our children who have been severely affected by the violent acts which are permanently imprinted in their impressionable minds.

Our ancestors were not as lenient as we are today. They took quick action to quell violent acts in the Tiospaye. I have heard stories of banishment or death meted out to those who committed heinous acts upon women and children. Perhaps our tribes should get out from under the thumb of the federal government and take back our power to prosecute violent offenders under customary Lakota law.

I am reminded of the swift justice dealt out in the first known case of violence against a Lakota woman. The story of Pte San Win is about the spiritual maiden who appeared to two men. One of the men had an inappropriate thought about her. Still, she allowed him to approach. When he got close enough he was engulfed in a cloud. When the cloud cleared the maiden remained untouched while all that was left of the man was a pile of bones. He perished because of his uncontrolled violent thought!

Our Lakota women and children are Wakan. They deserve to see their abusers brought to justice.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at vi@lakotacountrytimes.com.

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