“Maybe if I had been stronger, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Ain’t No Sacajewea

Mary Annette Pember

Whiteeagle had had enough. She stormed into the dingy t-shirt shop where her 19-year-old daughter Lina had been hanging around with older men who said they were “taking care of her.” They were letting her party with them. They told her she was hot; they wanted her to pose for photos. They gave her money, drugs and jewelry in exchange for sex. One man insisted on giving her gold jewelry to wear, saying she was too pretty to wear “cheap shit.”

Several men were in the shop located in an area of Rapid City known for drugs and crime when Whiteeagle made her move. Lina was not there that day and Whiteeagle was alone, but she didn’t care. “I was mad and heated up. I didn’t give a shit. I told them I knew they were up to no good and I called them bad names. I told them I didn’t raise my daughter to be used by people like them!”

(Whiteeagle requested that her family’s names be changed in order to protect them from retribution by criminals or relatives.)

The men were stunned into silence, until one of them began to laugh. He then said, “I like you lady; you ain’t afraid of nothin’!”

“I told them I knew people in AIM and had several relatives who would come down here and kick their asses if they didn’t get my daughter back to me!” she said.

She then turned around abruptly and went back to her car and drove home. Later that night, a car pulled into her driveway and Lina got out and came into the house. She was angry. “You know, you’re crazy!” she screamed at her mother. “Nobody talks to those guys like that. Now they don’t want me around.”

Sullenly, she flopped into a chair in her mom’s living room. Whiteeagle was overjoyed but said little. She ran a warm bath for Lina, steeping cedar leaves in the water. Gently she guided her girl into the bathroom and bathed her in the medicine as she had been instructed by a Lakota healer. Lina seemed to grow calm; she allowed herself to be bathed, dressed and fed. She slept curled up in her bed for many hours as Whiteeagle stood guard, holding Lina’s tiny 4-month-old baby.

I visited Whiteeagle and Lina the next day. When Lina walked into the living room, wrapped from head to toe in a Pendleton blanket, she reminded me of one of the Indian extras from an old spaghetti western wandering in the background of a Hollywood-set frontier town. She had an aimless look about her. Although it was late afternoon, she had just gotten out of bed. She looked exhausted but still had an air of haughty entitlement. My presence and my attempts to make conversation clearly annoyed her. When I asked what she liked to eat, she said, “food,” in a tone that ended further discussion.

She had grown so much thinner than her Facebook pictures posted only weeks ago, which showed her wearing the tight hip-hop clothing from the t-shirt shop. But she was still beautiful, her classic Lakota face regal.

Whiteeagle spoke to us of her deep commitment to Lakota spirituality. She had been in nearly constant ceremony since Lina began disappearing from her house, spending time with the men at the t-shirt shop and using meth. “That is what always brings her back to me; I truly believe that,” Whiteeagle said.

She is always after Lina to go to ceremony with her. “I know it helps her, she always says it makes her feel better.”

‘Mom, I’m not like you; I’m not Mrs. Sacajawea, ok?” Lina said, petulantly, from her seat at the table. Although feigning disdain, it was clear Lina enjoyed her mother’s love and attention and even the visit from a strange old Auntie like me.

Lina drifted back to the bedroom as Whiteeagle held her tiny granddaughter, whose black hair resembled a tuft of baby chick fluff. Whiteeagle then told me her family’s story.

Lina was raped at age 14 on the Rosebud Reservation. An older friend lured her to a motel room where she was given Gatorade laced with ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic often used as date rape drug. Several men raped her. Afterward, she somehow managed to call her mother, who eventually found her in the motel room. Her pants were down and she had wet herself. “She was like a limp noodle; we had to carry her out of there,” Whiteeagle recalled.


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