See below for a report back about the Native American women’s shelter I posted about before the holidays. Thanks to anyone who contributed!
In October, Betsy Campisi, a volunteer on the last Pretty Bird Woman House fundraising drive called Georgia Little Shield, the shelter director to check in. After all, after the previous May fundraiser, things looked great – Pretty Bird Woman House had a building, funding from the Netroots until a grant kicked in in… things were going well. But when Betsy spoke to Georgia she heard grim news.
Our shelter was burned down. They stole everything. Then they burnt it down.
Betsy asked; how much to buy a new house with a security system? The answer: $70,000. Worse, all the grants Pretty Bird Woman House depended on required a physical building to use as a shelter. They needed the money FAST. It seemed so unlikely back in October that it could even be done…
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just hope that the net is there to catch you. This time there was no net. But you wonderful people… you wove that net even as everything was falling off the edge. You wove the net out of blog posts and $5 donations, out of human love and compassion.
If you are not familiar with the story behind Pretty Bird Woman House you can get a pretty complete history right here.
The timing could not have been better – Pretty Bird Woman House had a Board of Directors Meeting today. All of the Board of Directors and the advocates who work for the Pretty Bird Woman House had come into town for the meeting. Shelter Director Georgia Little Shield checked the Chip-In before the meeting started:
Everybody broke down in tears… thank you, thank you, thank you! The Board of Directors was shocked. The girls (the advocates) were crying they were so surprised.
Even more amazing – they have not finished counting the checks that have arrived in the mail yet – we have really raised more than $77,000 for Pretty Bird Woman House… in fact, it might be well over $80,000 by the time the counting is done. You did not just buy a women’s shelter – you bought furniture, paid some of the energy bills, got a top notch security system… Georgia has promised me she will keep us updated on how the money is used. They have a donated digital camera and she will photograph things as they happen so that we can see.
Georgia went on to tell me that her life experiences with domestic violence and abuse as well as the horrors she sees on a day to day basis sometimes catch up to her and darken her world.
But this.. this has totally amazed me and given me hope – that there are so many good people out there. Strangers who actually care.Now the voices of these women will be heard!
A new energy fills Pretty Bird Woman House; the staff does not spend its time trying to figure out how to make ends meet for tomorrow, unable to see how they can function next week, let alone the next month. Already things are falling into place. They have a bid in on a house across from the police station; if that does not work out for any reason, they have other buildings in mind.
Georgia is expanding the services offered by Pretty Bird Woman House – she has applied for two new grants and wants to hire two advocates who will specialize in working with victims of sexual assault. And Pretty Bird Woman House has a new volunteer advocate. Those of you who followed this story will remember her. Back in October Georgia told us about the situation this remarkable woman was in:
I recently attended a court sentencing of man that pled guilty to a charge of sexual assault against a Native American Woman and the Mayor of his town testified that he was an up standing community member and that the community would except him back with open arms and to just give him probation.
That’s right; the new advocate for victims at Pretty Bird Woman House is the woman who was raped by this man. She is completing this circle and as part of her healing is reaching out to help others.
The person who started Pretty Bird Woman House is Jackie Brown Otter. She did it in memory of her sister, Pretty Bird Woman, who was raped and murdered. Georgia Little Shield is the director of Pretty Bird Woman House. About seven Lakota Sioux (some may be Dakota Sioux – my apologies if I have gotten this wrong) women have been the core of this whole project, they nurtured the dream and made it reality.
The progressive netroots would probably never have heard of this if Daily Kos user Norman Bier had not heard a National Public Radio story on an Amnesty International Report detailing how terrible the plight of Native American women was with regard to sexual assault. Norman Bier diaried on Daily Kos about the fact that without funds, Pretty Bird Woman House would close – and over 600 people responded with $27,000 to keep the shelter running until grant money kicked in.
That’s how Betsy got involved. I only got involved after reading a diary by Winter Rabbit called Pretty Bird Woman House: Let’s Unbury some Hearts. Daily Kos frontpager Devilstower gave the fundraising a jolt of lightning when he frontpaged a fundraising diary.
The Future For Pretty Bird Woman House
This time around we won’t lose touch; Georgia is planning on launching a regular newsletter… if you donated, you will get it (I will work with her so that you can opt out; Georgia is an incredible woman but she is not net savvy). We’ll do periodic diaries on Daily Kos and Street Prophets. Betsy and I are hoping to take a trip out and visit the new house when it is set up.
Hopefully we have put Pretty Bird Woman House in a position to be self-sustaining. It is great that we helped, but they must be able to thrive and grow on their own. We provided extraordinary assistance at a time of extraordinary crisis, which is appropriate. Personally, I think they are on the way. I expect them to keep growing.
The Future For Native American Women: Obtaining Equal Justice
Well, truthfully I have been so busy with the fundraiser I have not really thought about this but I am going to make this a part of my life. How can we expect justice in Iraq when our own people are treated this way? We have to put an end to it.
I am starting my research with Senator Byron Dorgan’s concept paper on improving law enforcement in Indian country. More information and places to submit comments are here. But that’s about as far as I have gotten with this. Maybe in comments people can suggest other places to go.
So the fight is not over by any means… but for now we celebrate an amazing victory!
WE DID IT! WE BOUGHT PRETTY BIRD WOMAN HOUSE A NEW HOUSE!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR PROGRESSIVE NETROOTS!!
You can still Donate here! Pretty Bird Woman House is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.
More info here:
Pretty Bird Woman House Blog – many more resources and links here!!
Amnesty International Report-Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA
Why traditional fundraising avenues are closed to Pretty Bird Woman House
A Fairly Complete History of Pretty Bird Woman House.
Pretty Bird Woman HouseYahoo Group.