What was your visit to the women’s prison like?
It was awesome going up there and seeing those women. We worked with a woman named Cierra, she’s a non-native, but she’s the one who started this club that they have in the prison. Every year they do a spiritual service. It has to do with the culture, the healing in the culture, and they do it all week. They called us and asked us to come because they had seen our mini-dress workshop. She got all of these speakers to come up, every day for a week they did something for the women’s culture, whether they are Lakota, Nakota or Dakota. It didn’t matter.
What was your role there?
I don’t know where they saw our mini-dress workshop but they invited us up to do it. To me, the mini-dress workshop is really good when it comes to healing because these women are sitting there and making these dresses and thinking about what happened to them and how far they’ve come. They’ve been through so much and here they are surviving, sitting there and making this dress. They come out with some awesome, beautiful dresses. Then they tell a little story. We tell them, “write whatever inspires you. What helped you heal? What do you think you need more of?” one lady just put, “survived.” That word in itself is big. So yeah, that mini-dress workshop is very good to help with healing and thinking about everything.
The women gave you the earrings you’re wearing, right?
Yes, they honored us and were so appreciative to have us there. So when we were getting ready to leave, one of the guards asked if we could wait because they wanted to give us a gift. So one of the ladies had us go up front and made a pretty big honoring about it. They gave us all different gifts. It was really good.
Did you participate in the healing ritual when you were there?
No, they didn’t have one when we were there. You asked Jan about the Sage and why we use it, well the Lakota believed that everything has a spirit. Even the rocks we use. The water that we pour on those rocks has a spirit. The cedar that we throw on the rocks has a spirit. The steam that comes up, that has a spirit. So when we’re praying, we’re sending our spirit up to Watanoka so that he can hear the prayers.
When did you get involved with White Buffalo Calf?
In 2014 I got a job with White Buffalo Calf as a child advocate. It was a new grant that Janet had written and it was only supposed to last a year. So I worked for about a year before the grant was up. I took the position of sexual advocate.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
It was tough being a sexual advocate. I’m not anymore because of the heart attack; I couldn’t take the stress. That’s really a stressful job. These ladies go out in the middle of the night and could be out there at 3 or or 4 o clock in the morning. It didn’t matter, when you got the call, you go. You take on their pain and all their everything. What they go through, you go through because you’re there from day one. From the time they call you, to the time you take them home, to the day they go to court. You’re there all the time with that lady. Now I’m a facilitator for Her House.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best thing I like about it is this; having you guys here. Having this wonderful opportunity for these women. You don’t know what I go through to try to get them to come over here and do something. Nobody wants to come over and sew or anything. So, if they’re going to make money for themselves and be able to sustain themselves then that’s good. And, I can’t think of anything that I don’t like. I’m here for community members that come and want clothes, and it makes me feel good to help them clothe their family. Her House is awesome.
What was your favorite part about today?
Meeting you guys. Putting those beautiful faces to those beautiful voices. Just listening to you, Em, talk to these women about what they can do and what they can accomplish, because they don’t know that. They need to know that. Having you here made it all real. I kept telling them, but I don’t know if they believed me. Hearing it from you made it all more real.
Is there a proverb or something that your Mom told you that is special?
I can’t think of anything, but I will tell you, Janet’s mom is my aunt. I was fighting with the housing because I got evicted. They tested my place and it was positive for meth, but they had never tested it before I moved in. Her mom told me, “Debbie, stop being an Indian. Fight!” So, I did. She had a big impact on my life.