Click here to hear Elsie talk about AIM, Wounded Knee, and their importance to today’s Native activists.
The insidious and devastating effects of alcohol on Indian tribal culture, families, and individual lives have been with us for two centuries. Even the Native American identity reclamation and cultural renewal of the early ‘70s that gave rise to Native activism and AIM is tinged in Elsie’s mind by negativity. Although they had strong voices and believed in what they were doing, and it was a good strategy to draw attention to the Indian’s plight, “behind all of that they had drugs and alcohol” (Clark Nov. 2o10). However, she does appreciate the gains activists made, and the example they have set:
Yeah, we need strong advocates like that. I guess it was meant to happen on different levels of action, and that was a powerful action to demonstrate the rights of people, that they had the will to initiate something like that . . . because of what they believed and how we were treated. As we go along in life, as we build up on our leadership skills, we can always revert back to that era and see the process, the strategy, and the will behind it, and then look at everything today and say, “Wow, there’s more coming out.” You know back then it was important— an important move. (Clark)
A form of this “negativity” can be found in the Omaha tribal council today. Elsie has run for tribal council several times. Each time she has won the primary but has never been elected. She believes this is because “there are so many things that go on in how our tribe operates and being square and fair isn’t popular. Square to me is being healthy, and sober, and spiritually-directed, and that is not a popular thing” (Clark).
For the last three years, Elsie has coordinated the Ten Clans Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative, located on the reservation in Walt Hill. This program was funded through the tribe with a grant from the Violence Against Women Act’s (VAWA) Safety for Indian Women Title through the US Department of Justice (Majel and Henry). Although she is working now, she was recently laid off for six weeks because of funding trouble: “The tribe, their audits aren’t up to shape, so they are banned from submitting for anything now” (Clark Nov. 2010).
In her work with domestic violence and battered women, Elsie clearly sees how poorly treated the women in her community are. She described the shortage of transitional funding available for women trying to leave their abusers and the lack of training in