Tawna Luschen, a domestic violence–outreach advocate for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska’s Domestic Violence Program, has an unusual approach to her cause. She wants to reconnect American Indian women with their culinary roots and help them pass on traditional recipes to their children. By doing so, she hopes to raise awareness of the violence committed against Native women.
Luschen is currently accepting recipe submissions from tribal members for a cookbook, which will combine recipes with information and statistics on domestic violence, along with uplifting quotes. “It’s a problem everyone needs to stand up against,” Luschen told Indian Country Today Media Network of domestic violence. “It happens far too much in the Native American community, and it’s not a tradition among American Indians. My goal is to see it end someday.”
In testimony before the Committee on Indian Affairs on Violence Against Native American Women on July 14, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli stressed the severity of the situation. “One regional survey conducted by University of Oklahoma researchers showed that nearly three out of five Native American women had been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners,” he said.
“It is not only affecting the man and woman [involved] but affecting the children,” Luschen told ICTMN. “We need to break the cycle for youth, so they don’t grow up thinking that this is okay or natural.”
In her role with the Domestic Violence Program, Luschen advocates for her clients. “I go to court with them and help them with whatever resources they need,” she told ICTMN. “We have limited funds, but we help with some funding needs. I help the victims of domestic violence and do a lot of outreach like seminars and candlelight vigils to get awareness out about domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, teen dating violence—whatever kind of violence.”
Her recipe-book project, supported by a grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, is yet another form of outreach. Luschen has put out a request to Ponca tribal members to submit recipes for traditional Indian meals, passed down through generations. She told ICTMN that she wants to feature at least 30 traditional and family-favorite recipes.
“My goal was to keep women connected with their culture, and to encourage them to teach their children traditional Indian cooking,” Luschen said.
Luschen is accepting recipe submissions throughout the month of October, which is designated by the U.S. Congress as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, according to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project. She expects that about 100 to 150 copies of the book will be printed and distributed to Ponca tribal members and those interested nationwide in January 2012. More copies can be made on request, she told the American Indian Report.