Walking to fight domestic violence
EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. -- Nearly 150 walkers overcame hot and windy conditions
during the second annual "Reclaiming the Sacredness of Women and Children"
walk/ride Aug. 31. The 19-mile trek from downtown Eagle Butte to Green
Grass, home of the sacred pipe of the Lakotas, attracted walkers from as
far away as New York.
Sponsored by the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and
Sexual Assault, the event is held each year to raise awareness, focusing on
ending sexual violence in communities across the state and the nation.
One in 4 women in America is raped each year, and the odds increase to 1 in
3 for Native women.
"It's important that we come together and make our voices heard. Lakota
culture has a lot to offer in teaching respect for women. When the
sacredness of women is recognized by society, this crime will be no more,"
said Karen Artichoker, coalition co-chair.
The purpose of the walk was to draw attention to the issue of sexual
assault of adult women and provide healing for victims, as well as offer an
avenue for the public to express concern and support for family members and
friends who have been victimized, she said.
Recognizing the efforts of the state coalition and the work of local
shelter staffers, Cheyenne River Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier commended
the efforts of those men, women, teenagers and children who committed the
time and the effort to take on a challenge of what would be like a segment
of an Iron Man competition.
Frazier noted the need to focus on the issues because it has become such a
serious set of issues in Indian country. He reminded tribal men they needed
to follow the footsteps of their ancestors by taking care of their women
and children as well as fulfilling their roles as protectors and providers.
The day started with prayer as a circle of men, women and children
remembered those who were victimized and prayed for the end to the violence
in their communities. Behind the circle of walkers stood a backdrop of
wooden silent victims, representing those who had died during a violent
Staff from Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Domestic Violence
Against Native Women, a Rapid City-based organization that provides
training on a national level, participated in the walk.
Walkers, horseback riders and motorists lined U.S. Highway 212 and State
Highway 63 during the day-long walk.
A traditional drum group rode in the back of a truck and sang songs of
encouragement, helping many walkers keep going.
At the end of the walk, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred
White Buffalo Calf Pipe, led the group in a prayer ceremony dedicated to
women and children. He talked about the history of the sacred pipe,
explaining that his grandmother was given the pipe in the late 1800s. It
has been kept in Green Grass since. People from all over the world come to
the site where the pipe is kept to pray.
The Lakota believe that one of the first teachings of Pte San Win (White
Buffalo Calf Woman) was that "women and children are to be respected. Even
in thought." Despite those teachings, sexual violence in Native communities
has reached epidemic proportions. From 1992 to 1996, the U.S. Department of
Justice reported that Native women were raped at a rate more than double
that of rapes reported by all races: an average of 2 per 1,000 annually for
all races and 7 per 1,000 for Native women.
As a continuing commitment to slowing the levels of violence in communities
across the nation, Sacred Circle has taken a lead role in promoting the
2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The act, which has
provided resources and expansion for domestic violence and sexual assault
programs since 1994, is set to expire at the end of September. Advocates
and organizations have worked hard with key members of Congress to ensure
the renewal and expansion of resources for shelters. The 2005 version of
VAWA, if passed in Congress, would provide greater resources and programs
to assist communities in ending the violence.
For more information on how to help end domestic and sexual violence,
contact the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual
Assault or a local shelter program. For more information about VAWA, visit
Kay Humphrey is a public awareness advocate for Sacred Circle National
Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women and a media advocate
for Cangleska, Inc.