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Amplifying Indigenous Voices: Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month Through Advocacy, Healing, and Justice 

 

By BWJP Staff 

As we recognize National Native American Heritage Month, we invite you to join us as we celebrate and raise the voices and experiences of Indigenous Survivors with two of our staff members – A and V - two committed professionals at BWJP, who reflect on their motivations, rooted in their dedication to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and advocating for social justice.  

We posed three questions about their experiences, and their stories show how personal beliefs align with their professional work in social advocacy. 

1.What motivates you to do your work? 

A - BWJP’s commitment to social justice and equity is a huge motivator for me because it aligns with my personal values. I decided to go back to working at a nonprofit after the uprising in 2020.  I wanted to put my skills and knowledge towards a cause that I believed in and had a strong desire to make a difference.   

V - My role within BWJP is to support our staff who do the program work in the gender-based violence (GBV) field. Watching my colleagues make a difference in survivors’ lives in various ways and making changes in laws and policies is very gratifying to be a part of. 

2.What should legal systems do differently to be responsive to Indigenous communities in the U.S.? 

A - First, legal systems need to provide cultural competency training for judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and other legal professionals including social workers to enhance their understanding of Indigenous history, cultures, and legal traditions.  Often indigenous voices are not heard or taken seriously because they are not understood.  They also need to acknowledge and address historical injustices, including treaty violations and other forms of historical trauma, through legal mechanisms and reparative measures. More funding is needed to increase education and outreach efforts to inform Indigenous communities about their legal rights and the legal system, promoting greater engagement and understanding. 

V - My involvement with trying to eliminate GBV is by raising awareness on DV just by sharing the information I have learned over the years working here at BWJP and networking other GBV organizations. One thing I like to share about GBV in the Indigenous communities is that it is NOT traditional, rarely occurred, and was not tolerated in tribal communities before colonization. Tribal communities took care of one another, and women were valued and honored. Today 83% of Indigenous men and women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. 

3. What is a unique way you have seen Indigenous survivors heal or receive justice from telling their stories? 

A - I’ve seen elders and community leaders play a crucial role in guiding the Native community in a good way.  They have created space for American Indian survivors to have their voices heard through healing circles, survivor groups, and activities where folks in the community can come together.  Native elders also tell their stories, lead traditional ceremony, and teach about medicines like tobacco, sage, and cedar are used for both individual and community healing.  I’ve seen many survivors also turn to artistic expressions, such as music, dance, and cultural crafts to help in healing. 

V - Today we still rely on our four sacred medicines tobacco, sweetgrass, cedar, and sage and survivors will use those to help with their healing processes.  

Having culturally appropriate organizations and resources available is also necessary for healing.   

These organizations play a pivotal role in honoring cultural traditions, amplifying Indigenous voices, and fostering a supportive environment conducive to healing within Indigenous communities... 

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center - https://www.niwrc.org/ 

Mending the Sacred Hoop - https://mshoop.org/ 

Stronghearts Native Helpline - https://strongheartshelpline.org/ 

Together, let us advocate for systemic changes within legal systems, challenge misconceptions, and champion inclusivity, ensuring that Indigenous communities receive the respect, recognition, and justice they rightfully deserve. Join us in creating a more equitable and supportive environment where Indigenous voices are heard, valued, and honored year-round. 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Gender Based Violence #News #Women

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