Red Lake’s Equay Wiigamig Women’s Shelter hosted a domestic violence conference at the Seven Clans Event Center in Red Lake on October 18 and 19. The theme of the conference was “Strengthening the Circle—Breaking the Cycle.”
More than 100 people registered for the two-day conference that appropriately coincides with October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The conference was geared to service providers and those in other helpful professions. Last May, Equay Wiigamig hosted a similar conference for law enforcement personnel.
After registration, at 9 a.m., conference emcee James Cloud, Jr. introduced Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr., who provided a welcome message and shared a “personal” story.
Counselor and Psychologist Jacob Flores opened and closed the conference with lengthy presentations. The first session lasted from 9:30 until noon and was entitled “Roots of Our Pain.” With humor, wit and charm, Flores gave an extensive background on what has become a recognized problem that must be dealt with across Indian Country—colonization and historical trauma.
Flores was followed by a working lunch and a film entitled “My Three Friends,” a dramatic story about the difficult path faced by three young women living on the reservation. The film was written, directed and edited by the students for Red Lake’s own Project Preserve back in 2001. Watch the film here:
The video sponsored by Equay Wiigamig, opened with a quote by its Director Darlene Lussier. “(The) history of the Anishinaabe taught respect for all living things. From a rock to the sky, from a tree to a blade of grass, from the animals to all winged that fly. To the women, givers of life that bear children, and hold our future. All were respected, nourished, honored, and protected with pride. To be, to become, to better yourself has become a survival tactic for today’s Indian Women. Driven from their homes by abuse, violent behavior, women and children are alone.”
The film was followed by a report by Leonard Red Cloud from the Red Lake Department of Public Safety who told all assembled “Why I Became Involved.”
Todd and Shari Smith talked about “Domestic Violence: Batterer’s re-education program” on Tuesday afternoon. The program is quite successful reported the Smiths. Two types of clients go though the program, some are sent by the courts, but encouragingly many volunteer for the program recognizing a problem in themselves. The programs success is measured by the fact that 98 percent of those who are referred or volunteer for the program are not/do not return.
This report on the re-education program was appropriately followed by three courageous men who each gave ten minute presentations on their experience in the Re-education Program under the title of “His Story.”
Day One closed out with entertainment on the electric piano by Michelle Mountain, whose soothing music quieted the crowd.
Day two began with short presentations in the morning by U.S. Assistant Attorney Kimberly Hare on the “Tribal Law and Order Act,” FBI Victim Specialist Karen Seviour, and Victim/Witness Consultant from the US Attorney’s Office, Joyce Roy.
Next up was Beverly May from Red Lake Tribal Court on “Prosecution of a Domestic Violence Case,” then a report by Tribal Attorney Michelle Johnson on the “Red Lake Tribal Code,” and last but not least Stephanie Cobenais gave a report on “General Crime.”
After a working lunch that included Hand Drum Singing with James Cloud and Athena Cloud, a very brave young woman shared her experience as a victim of domestic violence, “Victim Story.” She wishes to remain anonymous.
Two panel presentations by the staff at Equay Wiigamig on “Healing Stages” and and an “Advocate Panel” followed next in the afternoon. Participants included; Victoria Fineday, Lori Washington, Rose Barrett, Karen Nedeau, Irma Beaulieu, and Linda Omen.
Jacob Flores closed out the conference with a positive message that included reasons to feel upbeat about how things are going, in a presentation billed as “The Ever Present Voice of Change.”
Equay Wiigamig Director Darlene Lussier reports that the Women’s Shelter employs nine full time staff, and six part time.
About the Clothesline Project
The Clothesline Project is a national art project started by women in Massachusetts as a memorial to the victims and survivors of domestic violence. The shirts then are hung on a clothesline and displayed in a public location. The purpose is create a visual memorial to the casualties of the war against women.
The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women started the state clothesline in June 1992 in Brainerd, Minnesota at a statewide conference for battered women and advocates. In October 1992, they co-sponsored a statewide hanging of shirts in Minneapolis with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault in which over 300 shirts were hung by participants from all over the state to commemorate their own, or other women’s and children’s experience as victims of violence. Included were shirts designed by the Arts Against Domestic Violence for each of the women and children who died from domestic violence in 1992.
Clotheslines from 1992 to the present honoring the women and children in Minnesota killed as a result of domestic violence are available for exhibit throughout the state to raise public awareness of the prevalence and severity of women and child abuse. All Clotheslines now travel to communities throughout Minnesota.
The shirts on each Clothesline are designed by volunteer artists. Most of the artists did not know the woman or child they honored with a shirt but had brief information collected mainly from news accounts. Beginning in 1993, the Clothesline has included shirts designed by family members and friends for their lost loved ones.