Youth ALIVE! goes to South Dakota

White Buffalo
Winter on the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota

White Buffalo Calf Women Help Men Heal

Violence follows poverty and strife and hardship, whether in Deep East Oakland or south central South Dakota. The Rosebud Reservation, home to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spans 1,442 rugged, bleakly beautiful square miles on the Dakota/Nebraska border. The closest urban areas are 200 miles away. Unemployment stands at 83%. A recent study found that 100% of Rosebud youth have been exposed to some type of violence, either as witnesses or as victims. The crime rate is high, the police force small and thinly spread. Domestic and elder abuse are serious problems. In 2014, there were 638 reports of child abuse and neglect. Founded in 1977, the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. In 1980, they opened the first women’s shelter on an American reservation. For decades, they have been educators and advocates for the women of the whole sprawling community. Now they are preparing to help another segment of their community: male survivors of violence, and in snow, bitter cold January, Youth ALIVE!’s Adrian Sanchez and Samuel Martinez traveled to the reservation to help.

Adrian and Samuel flew into Rapid City and drove another 200 miles through the snow. White Buffalo Calf Women Executive Director Janet Routzen was impressed. “No one visits us at the reservation,” she said.

Adrian is training officer for the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs, based at Youth ALIVE!. Samuel is a Youth ALIVE! mental health clinician, a Native American with years of experience working with Tribes as an organizer, advocate and counselor. After decades serving women who were victims of violence, the White Buffalo Calf Women recently won a grant from the Justice Department to serve young male victims of violence, to help wounded young men deal with the trauma that comes in the aftermath of an assault. It’s an effort to break the cycle of violence and provide some peace and some prevention education. Eleven of the 12 Justice Department grantees are urban organizations in places like Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Only one is rural, the White Buffalo Calf Women. Youth ALIVE!  and the National Network support these organizations with our violence prevention and trauma-care expertise and experience.

Mostly Adrian and Samuel were there to listen and learn. The people of the Rosebud reservation have particular needs that differ from other grantees; their present task is to develop a plan to provide services to their male survivors. At the community meetings Adrian and Samuel attended, some of the men said it was the very first time they had ever been invited to discuss the violence they have encountered and how it affects them. This violence is not just interpersonal, but historical. There’s a deep and lasting trauma among members of the Sioux Nation, the result of the oppression and losses of the centuries since Europeans came to their world. Despite this history, there are also many military veterans in the community, men and women who have returned from war traumatized. Finally, with the help of the federal government, and through the good work of the White Buffalo Calf Women, and with support from Youth ALIVE! and the NNHVIP, this destructive force, this trauma and violence, are being addressed.