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” (Interview). 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 job skills, social skills, financial skills, and self-advocacy that would enable them to survive on their own. When they leave “they don’t have nothing, and then they get there [to transitional housing]: no money, no clothes, no bedding, no nothing” (Interview). She is also dismayed that so few of the men face consequences for what they put their family through. “The men break the Protection Orders and the women go unprotected” (Interview). Sadly, she revealed, “[Over the last three years,] I have served over 100 women. It is really sad that I can only say that out of 120 to this day, only three have been successful— that have jobs; that have their own place; that are away from the perpetrator” (Interview). She said she needs to “advocate for these women. The fact is that for these women, in order for them to be safe, and to be able to stand on their own, [I need] to provide them with the information they need to do that” (Interview). A local prosecutor is encouraging her to do this, and he told Elsie, “The women here are so neglected, they are just beaten down into the ground, and they need to know there is help. That’s what you should do, that’s what you need to do” (Interview).
Violence against Native women is not limited to the Omaha reservation. The Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women was established in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1998 by the US Department of Health and Human Services in response to the VAWA. “Sacred Circle provides technical assistance, policy development, training, materials, and resource information regarding violence against native women and assists in developing tribal strategies and responses to end the violence” (Sacred Circle website). A Violence Against Native Women publication further states that “physical and sexual violence [against women] was extremely rare in indigenous communities in pre-Colonial times,” but today, “more than one in three Native women will be raped during her lifetime,” and further that “an epidemic of violence against Native women threatens the health and well-being of Native communities” (Harper and Entrekin 1). To read this extensive and thorough discussion on this drastic rise of violence against Native women and on actions taken by the US government and many tribal Nations to respond to this violence, please click here:
Elsie’s determination and drive is stronger today than ever. “When I was at Macy, I did fifteen years in the trenches. Now I need to empower, to build myself up, and empower myself so I can go to a higher level of advocacy to help these people. To help these people the way I think they should be helped” (Interview). She is very clear that “the thing that is important for them is survival” (Interview). Elsie has a vision of how life can be made better for Native women on the reservation.
There needs to be a place for these young mothers that are walking the streets with their babies during the daytime in buggies. They are pushing the strollers, but where are they going? So something for these women and for the victims I work with– before they transition