Robin Poor Bear visits Tulalip, speaks out against abuse
By Kim Kalliber, Tulalip News
An estimated one in three Native American women are assaulted or raped in their lifetimes, and three out of five experience domestic violence. Robin Poor Bear, an Oglala Sioux and member of North Dakota’s Spirit Lake tribe, is one of these women.
After facing years of abuse, which began at the age of three when she was molested by her father, and continued through a foster father and two uncles before an abusive husband, Poor Bear continues to fight to improve her life and the lives of others.
Poor Bear turned to alcohol as a way to cope with the psychological issues stemming from abuse. Following her divorce, and the conviction of her ex-husband for molesting their daughter, her two children were taken away from her.
“Kind Hearted Woman,” A PBS documentary created by acclaimed filmmaker David Sutherland, tells the powerful story of Poor Bears struggle to sustain herself, overcome addiction, and gain custody of her children against daunting odds. And throughout it all, she remains kind hearted and devoted to helping others.
Since the making of the documentary, Poor Bear has been traveling to various reservations and communities, serving as a role model and a symbol of strength to other women.
“A lot of people tell me that I’m so brave and so courageous, and I don’t feel like that,” said Poor Bear on her recent visit to Tulalip. “I think that the Creator gives you strength to carry through whatever it is you have to go through. When I told my story, it was Him, I was just going through the motions.”
Poor Bear spent two days, October 19 and 20, on the Tulalip Reservation, speaking with community members about overcoming the fear to speak out about abuse, recovering from tragedy, and urging others to reach out for help.
“I’m so grateful for all of it. There were tons of people that attended these two days of workshops. What an honor. What a beautiful, beautiful place that is here. The people are so amazing. What can we do, is the response I got from the people. I want to give each and every one of them a big thank you, because we need more of that.”
Speaking on VAWA and tribal courts, she impressed, “Law enforcement attended. There were law enforcement in this. That speaks volumes in how far this reservation is. Even though people don’t feel like you’re that far, you are. You’re dealing with historical trauma, generational trauma and genocide. That was instilled upon us, in our bloodline. We are just now getting into this process that has been long coming, like VAWA and all the work of the amazing women who changed legislation. They’re the ones who have helped me tell my story.”
“It’s time to end the ‘shh, don’t tell’ mentality,” Poor Bear said, acknowledging that many cases of abuse fail to get reported because of close-knit communities and family members. “It’s time to say, you know what, I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear your voice.”
Poor Bear strongly encourages everyone to reach out, to speak up. A good place to start is by contacting an advocate. “It was an advocate that helped me and introduced me to Davis Sutherland. It was an advocate that helped me through the toughest times in my life, when my own family wouldn’t.
“One thing I did, was with a relative that stayed with me, who was in this situation. I invited her and her boyfriend to come and stay with me and I left my pamphlets all over the house, in the bathroom, in her laundry. Finally she said, is this me? And I said, I don’t know only you can answer that. Is it you? And that’s where she started.”
“We have a wealth of resources. Call an advocate, call and reach out to the mental health workers. National hotlines are also available. There is just so much information and so many places to go and to know that you are not alone. I want to tell them all, you are not alone.”
For information about the “Kind Hearted Woman” documentary, visit PBS.org
If I am a survivor of domestic violence or sexual abuse or know someone who is, how can I get help and support?
If you or someone you know is feeling threatened or experiencing abuse, contact service providers at one of these national hotlines for confidential support. Advocates can refer you to local resources in your state or territory.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information, and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish, with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Among its programs, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. This nationwide partnership of more than 1,100 local rape treatment hotlines provides victims of sexual violence with free, confidential services around the clock.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Serving the U.S., its territories, and Canada, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages.
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or 1-800-331-8453 (TTY) or text “loveis” to 77054
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline provides 24/7 phone, text, and chat services designed for young people involved in dating abuse relationships as well as concerned friends, parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, and service providers.
A full resource list and hotlines for survivors of domestic and/or sexual abuse can be found at PBS.org
A collection of old bedroom doors began to pile up beside our house. To the neighbors and anyone who walked by, it probably looked like a major home renovation was under way inside. In fact, that’s exactly what I told them.
But if anyone had looked a little closer, they would have noticed an odd similarity about each of those doors: They all had big, splintery holes in them toward the bottom, about the size of a man’s foot.
See, it wasn’t a home renovation after all. Inside my house, behind doors and windows that I would rush to close when the shouting started, a relationship was being ripped off its hinges. One by one, those doors had been kicked in during fits of rage by the man I lived with—and loved. He had a problem controlling his temper sometimes. At least that’s what he told me.
The real problem was that just about anything angered him. Inattentive waiters, surly sales clerks, slow drivers. Anyone who got in his way or didn’t give him due respect incurred his wrath. Especially me and my “controlling nature.”
Even though our relationship was splintering like that real and metaphorical pile of rotting wood outside, we continued to fake it and live up to everyone’s expectations of us as the happy little couple. We threw parties at our new home, invited friends over for barbecues and summer swims. No one really knew what was going on behind our slammed, kicked-in doors. By this time, I had been called a “fucking bitch” and “idiot” so many times that they now felt like endearments.
I had become the Great Pretender.
My sisters knew bits and pieces, but I didn’t tell them everything. I was too ashamed for them to see that their strong, feisty sister had been reduced to this shadowy nub of a woman. My oldest sister was not fooled.
“Lynn, he’s crushing your spirit,” she would say.
My neighbors were not fooled either. I would later learn that I didn’t need to frantically shut the windows to soundproof his rage because they could hear him screaming loudly and clearly at me anyway.
There are many reasons why domestic violence victims try to hide the abuse from family, neighbors and friends. For me, it was shame and embarrassment that my “man radar” had been so far off. I was the smart sister, so how could I be so stupid?
Vivian Clecak is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Human Options in Orange County, an emergency shelter for battered women and children. She understands all too well why I covered up my abuse.
“Ours is a culture that makes a big deal out of romance—the fancy wedding, the white dress,” she said. “Women are considered responsible for relationships. So when something goes wrong, like abuse, the woman is ashamed and embarrassed. Not only does she blame herself, but society also blames her. Again and again, society asks: ‘What’s wrong with her?’ ‘What did she do to cause it?’ ‘Why did she stay?’ ”
Clecak said there is another dynamic in play, too, about why women pretend everything is perfect at home when it is far from it.
“The couple’s bond is very strong even when there’s abuse,” she said. “He promises it will get better, and maybe it will for four or five months. She desperately wants to believe him because it’s her home and her family.”
If you suspect a friend is being abused, Clecak said, start a conversation.
“Don’t be afraid to ask if you are worried about someone,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to give them the hotline number. People will talk about it when someone cares enough to ask.”
In my case, I’m not sure that would have helped. I wasn’t ready to give up my fantasy of the white picket fence just yet. We still had children to bring into the world.
Let’s help empower each other by keeping the conversation going about domestic violence. We invite you to share your story of abuse with us on Twitter at #WhyThisNativeStayed and #WhyThisNativeLeft, as part of the campaign started by CNN a few weeks ago, #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.
Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.
TULALIP – Every October the nation is splashed with a dose of bright pink, as result of a national campaign to bring attention to breast cancer. This campaign has resulted in an increased number of early detection screenings and a decrease in death rates since 1989. Since 1987, purple ribbons have begun to be associated with the month as well, as a result of the domestic violence awareness and education campaign. Both campaigns have resulted in successful lifesaving education. However, incidents of domestic violence are still at epidemic proportions.
To bring awareness to the dangers of intimate partner violence happening in her community, Heritage High School art teacher Cerissa Gobin, decided to use the platform of the popular social media trend ‘women crush Wednesdays,’ to educate and engage students about the dangers of domestic violence and teen-dating violence. Instead of picking a women who is admired for beauty as the crush of the day, Gobin is asking students to think about Native women who are missing or murdered as a result of intimate partner violence.
“In the spirit of ‘women crush Wednesday,’ I wanted the class to do some research on the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. It really is an issue that affects all us women around the world, because we, as Native women, are the ones that are the least represented and the ones that are highly victimized,” said Gobin, who is also a Tulalip tribal member.
As part of the in-class project, students are researching the current statistics of aboriginal women murdered and missing in Canada, along with the current statistics of domestic violence in Indian country. Students are also learning about dating violence experienced in their own age group. Students will then use the research they have completed to create a piece using art mediums such as poetry, multi-media, sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, or sculpture. The project will need to include statistics and what the student has learned.
In support of the student project, Tulalip Tribes Councilwoman Deborah Parker gave a special presentation about her work in educating the public about the plight of First Nations women and her work regarding Violence Against Women Act.
“It is not an easy conversation that our fathers or even mothers have had with our young men,” said Parker, to a dozen male and female students during her presentation on September 25. “How do we treat our women? Sometimes we see how our dad treated our mom and that is the way we treat our partners, or how our moms treated our dads, because domestic violence can go both ways. We have broken systems here in Tulalip, but also throughout our indigenous communities. It is a difficult issue to talk about. Nobody wants to talk about sexual assault and physical abuse.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.” These statistics mean that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience some form of domestic violence from their intimate partner, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality.
In Indian country the statistics are even more alarming. According to a 2008 Centers for Disease Control study, “39 percent of Native women in the U.S. identified as victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a rate higher than any other race of ethnicity surveyed.” The report also points out that most crimes go unreported due to a belief that nothing will be done.
According to the CDC teen-dating violence is defined as, “physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking.” The CDC also states that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men in high school reported experiencing abuse from their partner while dating. And “many teens do not report abuse because they are afraid to tell friends or family. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling are a ‘normal’ part of a relationship.”
Although many school districts, including the Marysville School District, have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying in any form, many incidents of dating violence that happen within school boundaries are never reported.
“It is not only my goal, but the goal of the Tulalip Board of Directors and the goal of our Tribe, that we stop this type of abuse. We stop the madness and we stop putting down each other, whether you are male or female. To our men, if you think this issue is not about you, it is absolutely about you. Part of your role historically as Native men is to promote our women. It is not to harm. It is not to hurt, to disregard, but to uphold our women,” said Parker.
“I don’t want to see our kids bullied. I don’t want to see our young kids raped and abused. People ask me why I am so passionate about this, it is because I was one of those kids. I was one of those kids who were abused. You are the heartbeat of our nation. You are the heartbeat of our people. I don’t want you to walk away from here today feeling disempowered. You are never alone. We stand together,” said Parker.
For more information about teen-dating violence, please visit the website www.loveisrespect.org. If you feel you may be a victim of domestic violence or have questions, please contact the 24/7 hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522. You may also contact the Tulalip Legacy of Healing Advocacy Center & Safe House at 360-716-4100.
Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kyle Taylor Lucas, Special to Tulalip News
This is the third in a series of stories on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and the intersection of disproportionately high substance abuse, behavioral, and health disparities in American Indians as compared to the general population.
A landmark 25-year research project by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente has linked childhood trauma to major chronic illness and social problems such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, heart disease, diabetes, violence, suicide, and early death.
Begun in the 1980s, “The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being,” said the CDC. The study included more than 17,000 patients who provided detailed information about childhood abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Since the breakthrough study, hundreds of scientific articles, workshops, and conferences have helped practitioners better understand the importance of reducing childhood adversity to overcome myriad social and health issues facing American society. Learn more about the ACEs Study here: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/. See the ACEs questionnaire, here: http://www.acestudy.org/files/ACE_Score_Calculator.pdf.
Federal Program Helps Build Family Resiliency with Home Visiting and Early Childhood Parenting Education
The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) is a federal and state partnership administered by the Healthy Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).
The MIECHV program was established by the Congress in 2010 with an initial $1.5 billion investment. In March 2014, Congress extended funding through March 2015. Said, the HRSA, “While decades of scientific research has shown home visiting improves child and family outcomes, the program is the first nationwide expansion of home visiting.”
Consistent with research on ACE reduction, the program is based upon scientific research, which shows that home visits by a nurse, social worker, or early childhood educator during pregnancy and in the first years of life prevent child abuse and neglect, encourage positive parenting, and promote child development and school readiness. An HRSA white paper cites a recent Pew Charitable Trusts study that showed “every dollar invested in home visiting yields up to a $9.50 return to society.”
The program supports pregnant families and parents of children to age five to access resources and develop necessary skills for raising healthy children. All of the HRSA-supported home visiting programs are locally managed and voluntary.
According to the HRSA, “The Home Visiting legislation prioritizes American Indian and Alaska Native populations through the inclusion of a three percent set-aside for discretionary grants to Indian Tribes, consortia of Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and urban Indian organizations. Currently, the program supports 25 Tribal grantees’ home visiting programs.”
Several tribes and tribal organizations in Washington State have applied for MIECHV funding and have established programs that will help to reduce ACEs among their members and simultaneously help establish benchmarks and data long missing.
South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency (SPIPA) – Helping Build Family Resiliency by Increasing Traditional Native Parenting Practices
The South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency (SPIPA) is one of several local tribal organizations and tribes that have undertaken training and applying intervention and have begun measurements similar to the ACE Study indicators to address generational trauma, support prevention programs, and to strengthen families.
SPIPA is a five-tribe consortium that supports each tribe’s vision of success and wellness. Its mission is “to deliver social, human, and health services and provide training and technical assistance, resource development and planning” to its member tribal communities—the Chehalis, Nisqually, Shoalwater Bay, Skokomish and Squaxin Island Tribes.
Founded in 1976, despite a challenging economy, SPIPA strives to carry its past successes forward. In its most recent annual report, SPIPA Chairman Dan Gleason said, “While much has changed for the better at the five Tribes, the underlying issues that made the formation of SPIPA necessary still exist. These issues center on self-sufficiency for our families, youth, and elders as they strive to overcome external forces that are barriers to their personal, educational, and career development.”
Asked how SPIPA incorporates the ACE indicators in its work, Jennifer Olson, SPIPA Data Analyst and Evaluator, said, “We are doing some pretty exciting things about addressing early childhood trauma and the ACE Study, but we don’t use the term. We talk about it more in terms of historical trauma. We use a similar intervention and measurements to the ACEs within our own cultural context.”
Olson, who has been with SPIPA for the path fifteen years, earned MA degrees in both Public Health and Community Planning from the University of Iowa. Her work is focused on grant writing and program evaluation.
Olson said their staff has taken ACEs training, and “We have found the ACE measurements dove-tail nicely with our work. They especially align with our work on intergenerational trauma and diabetes.”
SPIPA is starting the fourth year of a six year project supported by federal MIECHV funding from the Administration for Children and Families. It is a Healthy Families Home Visiting Program geared toward tribes. “The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and United Indians also received funding in that cycle,” said Olson. The program emphasizes culturally appropriate parenting skills to develop happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. “We blend our program to give support in teaching the basics of parenting to pregnant families and those with children up to three years of age,” said Olson.
SPIPA has an approximate budget of $450,000 to $600,000 to fund, in part, six home visitors (five of whom are tribal members) for four tribes and “We also have urban Indian Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) offices in Tacoma and Bremerton,” added Olson.
A longstanding obstacle in Indian Country is lack of benchmark data making it difficult to measure success which could help communities to secure continued program funding to both reduce ACEs and fill the data gap for other programs. Asked how SPIPA measures success, Olson replied, “We have served over 120 families that are now getting developmental screening who were not previously screened. Four tribes and two urban Indian sites now have early intervention services for birth to three.” Included among their early intervention services are child development screening, parenting education, family wellness assessment, resource/referrals, parent-child interaction activities, ‘Positive Indian Parenting,’ and child development classes.
“In terms of measurement and evaluation tools, SPIPA incorporates some of the federal goals of improving maternal/infant health, reducing child injuries or maltreatment, increasing school readiness, access to healthcare, addressing family violence, family economic self-sufficiency, and referrals for other community resources,” said Olson. She emphasized that it is also important to their member tribes to include a “full program” measurement in which they ask, “Does this program increase traditional Native parenting practices?”
SPIPA does developmental screening with a tool called the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire,” and they utilize an annual survey that incorporates screening for domestic violence, depression, parental stress, family planning and other parenting issues. They have a family assessment called “Life Skills Progression,” which both identifies development and stresses in the family’s health.
Asked about foster care, adolescents, and teen suicide, Olson noted they have a foster care program, but they are not yet applying the ACE Study to adolescents. She added, “We do screen for all ten of the ACE questions at least once per year and routinely with all of our home visits.” SPIPA incorporates the ACE measurements in its work with parents and guardians, and foster home families, for substance abuse and domestic violence screenings among others.
“It is sometimes hard to convince families how critical early childhood education, parenting education, and continuing support are to the family. We meet twice a month with families. This is a new concept for many, so we try to emphasize early screening and intervention,” added Olson.
The SPIPA Healthy Families Home Visiting Program grant has another two to three years and Olson is hopeful the program’s funding will be continued indefinitely, but it is dependant upon congressional approval.
The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation – Reducing ACEs in Urban Indian Population through Culturally Relevant Parenting Program
The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) is a non-profit corporation in Seattle. UIATF was founded in 1970 when a group of Northwest Indians and supporters, led by the late Bernie Whitebear, engaged in an occupation to reclaim Fort Lawton as a land base for urban Indians. Eventually, a twenty-acre site was secured at Discovery Park, and in 1977 the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center was completed. The UIATF provides social, education, economic opportunities, and cultural activities for the local urban Indian community.
One of the Foundation’s central services for the urban Indian community is the Ina Maka Family Program with its goal to improve family bonds by visiting in the home, making referrals and coordinating with community resources and support. Their work aims to reduce crime and/or domestic violence by making improvements in family self-sufficiency. They focus on “prevention of injuries, child abuse, neglect or maltreatment, and reducing emergency room visits, improving school readiness and achievement.”
In 2012, the Ina Maka Family Program began a five-year home visiting program funded by the HRSA and ACF. As noted, ACE research has established the link between infant, early childhood home visiting and family health. In 2012, the Ina Maka Family Program conducted a community needs assessment among members and service providers, the results of which they have used to develop a home visiting program.
Katie Hess, who is Program Manager for the Ina Maka Family Program, has been with the foundation for almost three years. Hess is part Native Hawaiian and earned her MA in Public Health from the University of Washington. She was born and raised in Seattle and went to Berkley where she earned a B.A. in Creative Literature.
Speaking to the UIATF’s work to reduce ACEs, Hess discussed the results of their qualitative and quantitative data collection, which she said, “provides contextual support for the need for home visiting in the King County American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) community and guidance for our choice of the appropriate curriculum that will best fit the needs of our community.”
Hess noted, “We are participating on the tribal side of this, but there is also state expansion. At the same time we received our five-year project, the state is using a public-private program through “Thrive by Five” for home visiting programs. The state side is where most of the home visiting money is coming from. They’re doing work with tribes, too, and have recently funded a two-year home visiting (promising practice) program for a tribe.”
In terms of measurements, Hess said, “What’s really special about this program is that we work closely with an evaluator, and we have real vigorous measurements. We established our own measurements. We looked at what’s a realistic measure and how to measure change. For example, breast feeding. We’re only seven months in and data takes awhile to collect, but we also will be doing more qualitative measurement.”
Asked about what she considers the foundation’s next milestone, Hess said, “Oh good question! We only have another year and a half of home visiting in our five-year project. For us, our goal is to ensure our program and data is strong enough to ensure continued funding.” Hess emphasized that in their data and evaluation process, they affirm theirs as a full-service urban Indian organization providing critical services that are “culturally designed.”
The Ina Maka Family Program used a survey tool and results to identify all of the components of its home visiting program. “We have an advisory board that helps guide our work, so we’ve also included pieces that were not in the assessment. It’s going very well. We have about 29 families and we’re still recruiting,” said Hess.
Noting that their home visitors are on a learning curve, Hess nonetheless expressed confidence in their training and program. “Three of our four home visitors are tribal. All have training in curriculum. We also have two elders, two grandmothers working in our program who advise and guide our home visitors. They have a lot of experience in early childhood education. They go on some of the home visits. The other piece that we do is we work with an evaluator. We’re constantly making changes and enhancements to ensure it’s a good fit for our Indian community.”
Asked whether they had utilized the ACE measurements, Hess said, “ACE was not part of our original assessment because people were only starting to talk about it two years ago.” However, she stressed how valuable the ACE measurements are. She explained why. “From a programmatic perspective we want to ensure that we have the tools in place to help our clients so that they are not re-traumatized. Our home visitors are familiar with the ACEs and have an understanding of generational trauma, but we want to ensure that the trainers are prepared. We just haven’t gotten there yet. It can be a really slow process,” but she said they wanted to get it right before including the ACE questions.
In terms of its other efforts to address childhood adversity, Hess replied that at United Indians, “We’re doing our best; we have a workforce program where individuals can receive support to find employment or educational opportunities. We have a Department of Corrections program that provides religious and cultural services with a chaplain, other activities, and helps to coordinate powwows.”
Asked whether their programs include training on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), Hess noted that while theirs is still a new program, all home visitors have prior training on FASD, and it is on the list for further specialized incorporation into their programs.
Speaking to teen suicide education and prevention, Hess noted, “There is nothing in the schools, but there are several other programs in the Seattle area that we partner with—Clear Sky, and Red Eagle Soaring—a youth theater group, and we partner with Seattle Public Schools education program. We will be opening up an ECAP [Early Childhood Assistance Program] in January at Daybreak Star and geared toward school readiness and long-term school success.”
Although the program is not presently applying the ACE Study questions in their surveys and home visits, as does SPIPA, they do intend to incorporate the research after further training. It is evident that their Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program addresses the findings of the ACE Study and subsequent research—that reducing childhood adversity is essential to overcome myriad social and health issues facing society and disproportionately—the American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Hess said, “I love doing this work because home visiting has great potential for families and to make some big changes in the long run for the urban Indian families we serve.”
Next in the Series
Both the SPIPA and UIATF tribal programs and overall MIECHV program data thus far demonstrates tribal communities are creating resiliency among their members by reducing adverse childhood experiences. The final story in this series will look at subsequent ACEs research, including neurobiology, epigenetics, and the developing brain. Because ACEs extend beyond the nuclear family to educational and child welfare policies, and to institutional racism in police, courts, and other institutions controlling the lives of Indians, those intersections are reviewed. Finally, the series will explore the potential of ACEs measurement in prevention and for building resiliency for American Indian people and tribes.
Kyle Taylor Lucas is a freelance journalist and speaker. She is a member of The Tulalip Tribes and can be reached at KyleTaylorLucas@msn.com / Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kyletaylorlucas / 360.259.0535 cell
An 8-month-old baby drowns in the bathtub while his father gets high smoking marijuana with friends. A baby girl is barricaded inside her playpen, ignored while her parents party with friends. A grade school boy wanders the early morning streets alone in his Halloween costume, not knowing how to get to his school party because his mother is at home, passed out on drugs.
In her 20 years of experience in law enforcement, Lori Moriarty has seen heartrending stories of children like these caught in the cycle of substance abuse—the root cause of child abuse and neglect.
Moriarty spoke to a gathering of about 150 tribal officials, law enforcement officers, educators, attorneys and victims’ advocates on developing a successful collaborative response to drug endangered children at the 2014 Indian Country Conference, July 16-17 at Prairie Band Casino and Resort in Mayetta, Kansas. “I’m going to tell you today,” Moriarty said, “children plus drugs equals risk.”
Today, Moriarty serves as vice-president of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children in Westminster, Colorado, an organization working to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect by empowering practitioners to identify and respond to children living in dangerous drug environments.
The NADEC defines drug endangered children as children who are at risk of suffering physical or emotional harm as a result of illegal drug use, possession, manufacturing, cultivation or distribution. They may also be children whose caretaker’s substance misuse interferes with the caretaker’s ability to parent and provide a safe and nurturing environment.
In Indian country, American Indian/Alaskan Native children experience child abuse and neglect at much higher rates than their non-Native peers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Why are we not looking for the kids?”
Moriarty said one of the biggest challenges of substance abuse and drug endangered children has been competing goals between law enforcement and child welfare advocates. While the goal for child welfare advocates may be family reunification, law enforcement’s primary focus has been arrests and seizures. “Why are we not looking for the kids?”
After a parent is arrested, children are placed in foster care, which can also prove traumatic for the child. “I want us to have a common vision,” Moriarty said. “Where do we come together?”
Moriarty pointed to FBI statistics that indicated an illegal drug arrest is made in the U.S. every 21 seconds. In 2011 alone, 1.5 million drug arrests were made. For Moriarty, the big question is this: How many children were associated with the arrestees?
In 2005, for example, Moriarty said the North Metro Drug Task Force in Adams County, Colorado made 88 arrests. Of those 88 arrests, 137 kids were associated with the arrestees.
According to a 2005 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 9.2 million children live in homes where parents or other adults in the home engage in substance abuse. Substance abuse in the home is a huge stressor in a child’s life, Moriarty said. “It’s called toxic stress.”
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University defines toxic stress in kids as frequent, prolonged adversity, such as exposure to violence and substance abuse, without adequate adult support. This can have long-term negative consequences in children’s lives.
Drug endangered children are at risk to develop emotional, behavioral and cognitive issues such as problems with language development, poor memory and the inability to learn from mistakes. They also have a higher risk of becoming substance abusers themselves.
Moriarty said children who suffer child abuse and neglect are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crimes.
A Collaborative Mindset
Early intervention and developing a collaborative mindset increases the likelihood of breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect. Moriarty told conference attendees that a collaborative mindset involves the exchange of information between law enforcement, child protective services, judicial, emergency and medical providers to make each other stronger. “Let’s not have that next generation wanting to use,” she said. “We have to start sharing information,”
On that note, Daniel Goombi (Kiowa-Apache), Tribal Victim Services advocate for the Prairie Band Potawatomi, said good communication and knowing the cultural dynamics of small, Native communities is crucial. “Everything we do is about relationships,” Goombi said. “You have to know the people you’re working with.”
Although social change may take decades, Moriarty said the goal in Indian country should be 100 percent healthy, happy and safe children. “These kids are resilient. Don’t ever forget that. We can make a difference in their lives.”
By Hansi Lo Wang, from NPR All Things Considered show
This Thursday, three Native American tribes are changing how they administer justice.
For almost four decades, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling has barred tribes from prosecuting non-American Indian defendants. But as part of last year’s re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a new program now allows tribes to try some non-Indian defendants in domestic abuse cases.
It will be another year before the program expands to other eligible federally-recognized tribes around the country in March 2015. But the Department of Justice has selected three tribes to exercise this authority first, including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, and the Tulalip Tribes, located north of Seattle.
‘Going To War’
Deborah Parker serves as the Tulalip Tribes’ vice chair. For three years, she flew back and forth between Washington state and Washington, D.C., giving speeches and knocking on doors — an experience that she says felt like “going to war.”
“You got to go to battle,” Parker says, “and you have to convince a lot of people that native women are worth protecting,”
And that protection, Parker was convinced, had to come from Congress. So she pushed for legislation allowing American Indian tribes to prosecute non-Indian defendants in domestic violence cases.
About four out of every ten women of American Indian or Alaskan Native descent have “experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s an alarming statistic that Parker knows all too well from growing up on the reservation.
“We didn’t have a strong police presence when I was younger. Even [if you called] the police, often they didn’t respond,” she says. “When they did, they would say, ‘Oh, it’s not our jurisdiction, sorry.’ [And] prosecutors wouldn’t show up.”
A Question Of Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the key word in this discussion.
In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe that tribal governments have no jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Native Americans on tribal land.
Instead, tribes have to rely on federal prosecutors to take on such cases, and prosecutors have not always been able or willing to consistently pursue reports of domestic violence.
Deborah Parker and other advocates pushed to address this issue — and some lawmakers in Congress pushed back.
One of the most vocal opponents of the new program was Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. He voiced his concerns about the constitutionality of the program during a Senate debate last February, weeks before the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized.
“The key stumbling block to enacting a bill at this time is the provision concerning Indian tribal courts,” Grassley said, referring to a provision that allows American Indian tribal courts to have jurisdiction over non-Indians accused of domestic violence.
Stepping Towards A Solution
But Fred Urbina, chief prosecutor for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, says the provision that passed is fairly complicated and narrow. “This basically helped it pass through Congress and get approval, so everybody’s describing this as a first step,” he says.
The “special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction” program is limited to certain domestic violence cases involving non-Native American defendants who are in existing relationships with Native Americans and living or working on the reservation. In Alaska, it only applies to the Metlakatla Indian Community of Annette Islands Reserve.
Still, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Attorney General Amanda Sampson Lomayesva says the program will offer a new route for justice.
“It is a ray of hope,” she says “Maybe we can start protecting people and having the tribal members who live here on the reservation feel like something will be done.”
Brent Leonhard, an attorney for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, also sees the program as a partial solution to “a mess created both by a Supreme Court decision and by federal law and policy.”
“This is a step towards trying to improve that,” he says.
Parker acknowledges that the program “doesn’t answer all the questions” about how tribal governments can play a more direct role in addressing crime by non-Native Americans.
“But it allows us to exert jurisdiction and arrest those who violate protection orders [and commit] dating violence [or] domestic violence,” says Parker, who adds that she hopes the program will give a stronger voice to more Native American women
A mother from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe faces arrest for protecting her children from an abusive couple:
The emergency room doctor was furious at what he had seen, recalled Audre’y Eby, who is Rosebud Sioux and the mother of disabled 16-year-old twins. One of her sons, who is blind and autistic, squirmed on the examination-room table, screaming, “Ow, ow, it hurts!” The doctor had found livid red and purple bruises covering his penis and scrotum, according to the Nebraska hospital’s records. Those injuries would soon lead to an arrest warrant for the mother—not because she had caused the harm, but because she did not return her son, along with his wheelchair-bound twin, to their abusers.
Indian child welfare expert Frank LaMere called the twins’ situation more extreme than any he’d seen in his many years of work in the field. “These boys are suffering,” said LaMere, who is Winnebago and the director of Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, Iowa.
The day before the ER visit, Eby, who is 45, drove from the Nebraska farm where she lives with her husband, Faron, to pick up her boys from their father in Iowa. It was early August of 2013, and she was going to have them for the once-a-month weekend visit the courts allow her. The boys’ father is Eby’s ex-husband; he has physical custody of the kids, and his live-in girlfriend is their primary caretaker. Eby and the boys are Native, and the father and his girlfriend are white—facts that LaMere says overshadow decisions that social-services professionals and the courts make on the children’s behalf.