Guthrie Capossela, Native American Community Engagement Coordinator, Mayo Clinic: Good day. [Speaking in Lakota] Excuse me. Good day, my relatives.
My name is Guthrie Capossela from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and I'm Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota. I work as the Native American community engagement coordinator within research here at Mayo Clinic. I work along Corinna in facilitating the Native American outreach within the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research. I have a bachelor's degree from the University of South Dakota and a master's degree from Hamlin University in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's good to be with you all today.
Quickly want to go over some housekeeping items. I want to do this pretty quick so we can save the bulk of the time for Alayna and Tasha go over their presentation with you all. We will have time for Q&A at the end. Please post questions using the Q&A function. This is being recorded, so presentations will be available online after the presentation is done. We're also going to be doing something new today. Towards the end of the Q&A time, we will post a new Zoom link. And then we'll have an informal Q&A discussion with our panelists and the Native American outreach program here at Mayo after. So it will be 60 minutes of our regular presentation, and then an opportunity, non-recorded, to speak with our panelists and staff here at Mayo Clinic.
So let's get, let's get started. I'm really grateful to be sharing today's health topic with you all. Our presenters are from my Tribe and working on health and wellness in the community me and my family are from, as well as the other districts across the reservation.
Today's topic is titled, Mni Wichoni Health Circle: The Resurgence of Kinship Practices in Health and Wellness. And the topic is being facilitated by our guest speakers, Alayna Eagle Shield and Tasha Peltier. I will turn it over to them to get started.
Alayna Eagle Shield, MPH, Co-Executive Director, Mni Wichoni Health Circle: [Speaking in Lakota] Hi everybody.
My name is Alayna Eagle Shield. I am currently the co-executive director of the, excuse me, Mni Wichoni clinic and farm. I grew up on Standing Rock. I am currently in my fourth year of my PhD program, so I'm officially a PhD candidate. I've been able to tailor the program around the work that we get to do. And it's just been beautiful and so transformative, and growing up around it, but then also getting to see how scholarship theorizes and builds methodologies around the things that we get to do in our community. And so it's really beautiful to share a couple of those things with you all today as well as sharing the work that we do and so, good to see you all. I'll turn it over to Tasha.
Tasha Peltier, MPH, Co-Executive Director, Mni Wichoni Health Circle: [Speaking in Lakota] Hello everybody.
[Speaking in Lakota]
Virtually, it's good to see all of you. My name is Tasha Peltier. I'm also Hunkpapa Lakota, I'm also from Standing Rock, a citizen of Standing Rock. I currently live in Mobridge, South Dakota. I think all of the work that we're going to share today is just really things that are near and dear to my heart. I am a public health professional through education. But also, I just think I'm a lifelong learner of our ways and really trying to understand our Lakota/Dakota ways. You know how those things can really lead our journey to health and wellness in our communities.
And so today we're going to, I'm excited to be with you all to share some of the things that we're working on and really grateful to be invited to be on the show today. Yeah, good to meet all of you.
We also want to introduce one of our other team members so we are a newer organization and we'll share a little bit of our history, but we have another team member that's not on the call today. Sunshine Claymore, she is our community engagement specialist. She's also a member of Standing Rock. She's been with us, with our organization for a long time and she's just coming on as a official employee. And so we're really grateful. She brings a wealth of knowledge about so many things that are relevant to the work that we do. And so we just want to make sure we acknowledge her and her role in everything. So that's Sunshine.
Then this is our board of directors. We currently have five board members. All of our board members that you see here all have a connection to Standing Rock in some way, shape, or form. That's something that's really important to us to make sure that the people that are really driving the work or helping to drive the work are connected to the communities that we're serving. And so that's something that's very important to us. We're very community-driven and we want to make sure that we stay connected to what's happening in our communities and what those needs are. So that's, so that's our board.
Alayna Eagle Shield: And just to point out, we'll share a little bit of our work around two-spirit. But that was some of the suggestions, that we have an elder and also two-spirit relatives on our board to help guide the work that we're doing.
And so Beverly Little Thunder is a two-spirit elder who has been involved in a lot of advocacy and work throughout the Nation. Not just Standing Rock.
And Zane Prentice is also two-spirit and has been doing local work within Standing Rock around the two-spirit movement. And they all bring a wealth of knowledge. But I just wanted to point that out, that we have been leaning into what it is that the community has been asking of us and also one of our board members, Baylee, I can say, Bailey is studying American Indian Studies, and just brings the beautiful Lakota thought and philosophy into guiding the work that we do in there. A young Lakota, and have just been being a trailblazer in their own way. And so we are super guided by our board.
Alright, so in an effort to move beyond land acknowledgments and create a call to action around the land back movement, we want to share a few steps with you all to take, to figure out how to take your own personal steps towards land back. And, land back is a call to action to return the land and all that is sacred to Indigenous peoples, to steward it as they see fit. So we just encourage you, one, to learn about the lands that you're — excuse me — to learn about the lands that you're on, using either Google or Native-land.ca, or other resources that are available to you. Research current actions by the Indigenous folks in your area. And if you're not Indigenous yourself, then try not to take up space, but determine how you can support based off of your skills, the things that you have, the relationships that you already have with Indigenous folks who are doing the work and learn how your skills could be of service to the community.
Use your privilege to speak up at local city council meetings, or other public spaces discussing changes like if your city hasn't changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day or invite folks to return the land to Indigenous Nations. And I know that's not quite as easy as just gifting land to folks because there's assessments and things that have to be done. But just encouraging you to think of how your land could be used. Or folks that you know, who have land that could be used by Indigenous folks. Return your property.
If there had been collected within your family or within your city or town, that have collected Indigenous items, or sacred, sacred objects, just encouraging you to return those things to the Nations that they belong to. And just continue to create awareness within your circles. So it's not just doing land acknowledgments and acknowledging the land that you're on, but really self-reflecting to think of how you are being a relative to those folks of that land. And that's what we want to encourage right now.
So we're going to start by sharing a little bit of our organization history and then move into the current environment that we're in. So our organization was started — it's called the Mni Wichoni Health Circle. But it was actually started at the the Ocethi Sakowin Camp during the Water Is Life movement. When our Nation was opposing DAPL in 2016. And we wanted to acknowledge this beginning because it was such a monumental time for us. So we had been, um, you know, a reservation since 1873 is when Standing Rock first became an agency of their own. And since then we've kind of been prescripted these, these ways that we have to govern ourselves. And so when the No DAPL happened and the Ocethi Sakowin Camp was set up, that was really a time where we got to think about what it means to exert our sovereignty.
We started to ask ourselves like what does this look like? In education, kinship, wellness. And then carrying the spirit of Ocethi Sakowin Camp forward, you can go to the next one, Tasha, and carrying that forward and thinking about what it means to, to lean into health and wellness through, through our own lens. And so it was started by Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, Linda Black Elk, Dr. Rupa Marya, and so many others. And it was called the Medic Healers Tent or Medic Healers Group. And they were responding to the, to the immediate needs within the camp. There were frontline actions, all kinds of things happening. And so they were bringing acupuncturists, and birth workers and midwives and body workers, herbalists, all these different pluralisms of health services to the camp. From there, it became the Mni Wiconi Clinic and Farm because they had initially wanted it to become a clinic and farm and wanted it to be this staple within the community that uplifted health and wellness.
You can go to the next one, Tasha. But as we started to meet with community, we started to realize how important it was for us to focus on the needs of the community. And so these are just some, some initial conversations before Tasha and I actually became the co-executive directors. We were board members first, but when they started to have these conversations, they wanted to figure out how to have a farm and have a clinic, a free clinic, and all of these other things.
But when we fast forward a little bit to after camps closed and everyone was going home, we started to have these conversations within our community. Like what does this look like? Is it a clinic? Is it going to be a large farm? And so we started to have conversations within our community. You can go to the next.
Tasha Peltier: So one of the first things that, you know, Alayna and I got to be a part of when we took a leadership role with the organization as the co-executive directors was we knew, like she said, we knew we had to start being in conversation with community, but also get input from them on how we move forward, what is the direction that this organization is gonna go? We recognized that there were needs around health and wellness, but what did that look like? And so we were able to host the strategic, strategic planning session with community. And really kind of looked at our collective history, identified what were the significant things that were impacting our house, present day. So that was a really, really good few days that we were able to spend just with community thinking about what that would look like. And what we did was, we came up, we co-created this kind of consensus vision statement. So if you look at this image, those top bubbles represent the things that we collectively decided that we are moving towards as an organization.
So moving towards accepting and understanding who we are, where we come from and applying it to heal our present and our future. We're also moving towards spiritual, emotional, physical and mental balance. And moving towards restoring and regenerating the pathways and environments for our sacred purpose and connection to happen. And so all of the dialogue underneath or the text underneath is what are those important things that are necessary to move us in those directions?
Through all of this community engagement, we were able to revise our, our organization's vision mission, what it is that we want to do. And we came up with really what we intend to provide: purposeful care that models, teaches and nurtures our people at every stage and in every role in the circle of life. We promote holistic community wellness by uplifting Indigenous ancestral knowledge systems while integrating contemporary practices to build spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental balance.
So this is really the statement that guides the way that we move, the work that we do, how we conduct ourselves. We just need, we reflect back to this when we're thinking about the work that we do.
So as we, so that's a little bit of our history. As we start talking about different, the work that we do in different concepts, we would like to start off with some of the definitions and history of our communities because we give this presentation or similar presentations in different scenarios or settings and we never know what the understanding of those settings are. So we always like to make sure that we're going over some of these concepts.
So of course, some of the, some of the basic questions that we get asked when we have these conversations are things like, what is the appropriate terms or how do we refer to Native Americans or Indigenous peoples? And so these are just some examples of definitions of common terms that we use. If you look at Indigenous, that refers to people with preexisting sovereignty who were living together as a community prior to contact with settler populations.
Another common one that we hear is Native American, American Indian Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian. And those are all terms that refer to people that are living within what is now the United States.
Then you'll hear First Nations, of course those, we hear that a lot with the Indigenous peoples of Canada. First Peoples, is another term that we hear common, referring to a group of people whose ancestors lived in North America or Australia before Europeans arrived. And then Indian, we hear Indian a lot that's kind of, uh, sometimes it's an outdated term, but really that comes from language that is used in a legal context when you're talking about things like federal Indian law or Indian tacos. No, I'm just kidding. But sometimes we, sometimes we take ownership of those terms too and you hear them in our communities.
But really what we want to stress here is that everybody has, I think the most respectful important thing is to ask when you're working in community, when you're, when you're engaging with an individual, asked them what they preferred to be referred to as. And so that's just out of respect and just shows your commitment to understanding them. And so we just like to kinda start off with that then. But just as we, in this context, we often use the term Indigenous. We may throw other terms in there depending on the context that we're using it. But that's just a little information for you all.
Alayna Eagle Shield: But also just, yeah, like Tasha said, make sure that you're referring to the community or deferring to the community that you're in. Because like our community, we hear "Indian" a lot like, oh, big Indian or gee, you speak good Indian. As you can see, the definitions that Tasha shared. There has been a history of what the government thinks that we need to call ourselves. And so we have written in our grants and things like that based off of what it is that they're requiring of us.
But otherwise, a lot of times our communities call ourselves by our names. Like if we're Lakota or Dakota or Hunkpapa or Oglala, you know, those names. And so just thinking of those definitions, comparing it to this federal Indian policy timeline, we'll just share a little brief overview just to help folks get an understanding of the wave that we've been in within our communities. So pre-colonial times, we existed, we coexisted in ways that fit whether we were [garbled] or whatever it was.
Our Nations are tied to specific point, but we were never necessarily, for us in particular, we were never necessarily just stagnant in one spot. But we co-existed. There were wars and there were all these other things but we, we knew how to conduct ourselves with each other. And then the doctrine of discovery came. We ended up making treaties with the government. There was Indian removal, the reservation era, and then it moved into allotment. So we were given land.
Our land was divided up and given to the head of household, which is usually a male. So who knows when that actually started? But there was like this shift towards the patriarchy and uplifting men as, as being the ones to get to make those decisions over our, our, our land, our homes, our bodies. But before this, before colonization, the woman owned the home, the woman had the, made everything within the home and they would always live with a woman's parents.
For our people, in particular. It's important to know these things because when we think of like how the shifts within federal Indian policy has shown, shown up. We were self-sufficient, we were hunters and gatherers. We moved along the land for survival. And then after colonization there was this assimilation period and a lot of harmful effects where dams were put into place.
Our identities were questioned and became, became this monolithic, where they kind of grouped us all together. It was like, oh, Natives, and we all have different ways of conducting ourselves. The transfer, the inter-generational transfer of knowledge was impacted. Our health began to plummet because we were forced onto reservations and forced to take rations and not able to hunt and do all these things.
And then you think of how these other things had started to come into place like termination period and then reorganization period. And then now we're in this present time, where not that long ago, in 1978, we were given the freedom to practice our own religious practices, which we didn't consider them religious, but we were able to practice our — and all along, our people were practicing. It was either underground or in the ways that they felt were necessary.
And we were given our — Native American Languages Act was passed in 1990. The Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act was passed in 1993. There were so many other things that were passed. And we're showing this because we want to demonstrate that there were all these laws and things put on our people to try to control and govern our land, our bodies, our languages, our ceremonies. And then within the 1970s, 1990s, we were starting to get this, like, freedom. And it's because they started to feel like it was safe enough to give it to us now and we'll explain a little bit more of that later.
You can go to the next one, Tasha.
Because we were put into boarding schools, punished for speaking our languages. There were all these massacres. They wanted our land because there was gold.
You can go to the next one.
And the reason we say that it was safe, as I'm in, as I'm in my PhD program, I'm learning about all of these different ways that the government controlled, you know, our communities. And through Lomawaima and McCarty, they talk, they talk about these traces of Indian policy or these swings of Indian policy that basically perceived threats or benefits based off of what they felt less safe or not. And so they would create laws and govern us based off of what they felt like we were allowed to do or if we, if we were assimilated enough and accustomed enough to not be a threat to them anymore.
And so this is why the — You can go to the next one.
These are an example of like, little girls were playing, playing Indian, but we were able to be Indian. You can go to the next slide. The government was able to control our hair, our languages and religions, our economies, our family structures as a way to continue to force us into this, like this white gaze to kill the Indian and save the man.
And the reason we bring this up is because we understand how monumental and important it was for us to experience the Water is Life movement during Ocethi Sakowin Camp, as we were opposing DAPL, because we got to prove and show the government that we were no longer gonna be safe, that we weren't going to just let them take our land, pollute our water, take our languages and all these things anymore.
And so I feel like that's why it's such a huge movement right now that's happening. Not only on Standing Rock but throughout the world. Because we're, we got to see a space where where at the Ocethi Sakowin Camp, where in the beginning for sure, I don't know how many of you were able to be there. But in the beginning it was so beautiful to see everyone just being authentically their Indigenous selves. And stepping into language and two-spirit movement, and health and education, and all of these ways that we got to prove that we can lean into each other and feel ourselves.
Tasha Peltier: Yeah, so I think now we'll step into really, how is that, how has that movement, those thoughts, how is that guiding the work that we do? So we're going to, we've talked a lot about the disparities that have been caught — what is the status of our communities today because of all these negative things that were imposed upon our people?
And really what we're trying to do is think about, how do we uplift our own Lakota/ Dakota ways of life and teaching to really try to flip that narrative from focusing on what we don't have or what was done to us to really leaning into those protective factors, or things that we know have carried us for generations, right? How do we lean into those, those things? And so we'll share a little bit about the ways that we're trying to do that with our work.
We just wanted to share, this is a quote from Leksi Tim Mentz Sr. He talks about sovereignty. We're going to talk a little bit about sovereignty later on, but sovereignty really is a spiritual commitment to the people. And so we really try to be mindful of that as we're thinking about leaning into that sovereignty around health and wellness, specifically.
The work that we try to do with our organization, again, is led by leaning into that sovereignty. So we think about different things like, through the pandemic. Actually when Alayna and I started as co-executive directors, shortly after that was when the pandemic hit our communities.
So we had been on this trajectory of where we want it to go as an organization. And bam, just like everybody else, we were hit with the pandemic and it just really kinda stopped us in our tracks and we had to adjust. We had to adjust to what we were doing for community, based on what the needs were. And so we really leaned into, of course, there was a lot of resources given to communities, whether it was from the federal government or different organizations, states. But we've started to lean into the genius that existed in our communities, the knowledge that have been carried for generations to really help keep our communities safe and healthy.
So these are just some of the examples that we utilized grassroots and community members' skills and knowledge to really help keep our communities safe and healthy. One of the other things that Alayna mentioned earlier was that we're really trying to focus on being two- spirit centered. One of the things, through colonization and just other influences in our communities, some people have forgotten how we, how we upheld our relatives in our communities, how they had very important roles in our communities. And they weren't shunned or pushed out. They were held in very high regard.
And so we've let those influences creep into our communities and it's been — it's negatively impact — we see it across the nation that it's, our relatives are being negatively impacted. So we're trying to be very intentional in our, in our own communities to uplift that again and to really show our relatives that they have a place. And let's think about what that looks like. We've been diving into language and roles and societies. What do those things look like within our communities because we know we all have a place?
Then really we talk about, the title of our organization talks about kinship. And one of the areas that's important for us is really focusing on our relationship to the land. That's one of the things I think that it's easy for us to feel separated from the land in the modern-day world that sometimes we get caught up in. And so it's about recentering, being connected to the land, being physically on the land. There's really something — we know that there's something that, that does for us. And so we've had several projects and things that — a lot of the work that we do on the land, even sometimes when we just get together and meet it's on the land because we know that that's important. And so these are just some of the examples.
One of the projects that we've done is the Chansasa Revitalization Project, really trying to work with our medicines like that, reconnect with those medicines, understanding how those plant relatives take care of us. And these are just like I said, other examples of some of the things that we've done on the land, some of the community members that we've worked with. That's one of the things is, we have a really small team of employees, but we do a lot of work with the community. We have different opportunities for them to do work with us. And really we try to let them lead how the work looks because we know that coming in and telling people what needs to be done, that doesn't work for us, right? We have that knowledge in our communities and we really like to be intentional about that when we do the work.
Then food-centered. We hear a lot about the health issues that have stemmed from either lack of access to healthy foods. We hear terms like food deserts. And so really we start to think about how did we, because we never had the conveniences of grocery stores in our, you know, long time ago. So what were the things that sustained us? And so learning about, developing and strengthening our relationships with the different food sources. And so these are just some pictures of some of the buffalo butcherings that we've done in the past.
And those have been amazing learning opportunities for us because, you know from learning about how you need to, to make a relationship with that relative before you take its life, how important those little pieces are to that whole process. You know, it's so easy for us to walk into a grocery store and pick up a pack of meat and just eat it and not even think about everything that's happened up until that point. And so, these are opportunities, opportunities for us to slow down, think about that, re-connect to those ways and really help us look at food and nourishing our bodies and how all of those things, they're all related. And we need to make sure that we're thinking about those things.
And so those are, those are, these are some of the opportunities for us to learn those things and we're really grateful for it. We have a lot of people, Lisa and Arlo Iron Cloud have shared a lot of knowledge. We brought them, invited them to our communities and they've taught our community members how to do these things. And so we'll continue efforts like this because everybody's excited to learn, to do these things. And so we just know that these are so important for us as we think about making sure that our homes and our communities have healthy foods and can support ourselves in those ways.
Alana Eagle Shield: And also just on that same note that we are continuing the effort. So we have our first — I don't know if it's gonna be quarterly or annually. We're still trying to figure out, when it actually happens, how crazy it's going to be. But we have, our [speaking in Lakota] Buffalo Teachings Camp. And so that'll be May 10th, 11th, and 12th.
And we just have, we have a new organization, we'll share a little bit about our partnerships with them in a bit, but we have a new organization that just opened up their building. They had their grand opening yesterday in Cannon Ball, which is — so our reservation is like the size of Connecticut. 2.4 million acres, or so. It's huge. And so on the North Dakota side, we have three of our districts. On the South Dakota side, we have the other five. And so the Cannon Ball is like the furthest north district that we have on Standing Rock, and that's where it's going to be located.
So we're continuing those efforts, continuing to figure out, like, as we've been doing these buffalo butcherings, we're like, we know we can't do this in a day. We have been able to. But there's so many things that come up. We're there from morning, sunup to sundown. And even afterwards we have, like, our car is shining lights and cleaning up and putting things away. And so we wanted to extend it to three days now. So we could share a little bit more about that later as well.
But yeah, thinking of, like, the family supports that are needed. So we've been having these [speaking in Lakota] ceremonies, which is publicly welcoming the spirit of the baby. And that has been huge. We actually, a lot of the things that we're revitalizing and learning, we're doing it in community with other of our Ocethi Sakowin Nations. And so we learned this one specifically from the Oglala. They had said that they learned it from their elders back in the '90s when there was a high epidemic of SIDS. And again, you know, as we're educators, I'm in a PhD program, we understand that there's like evidence-based knowledge that needs to be shared for certain grants or things like that. But we know that through our community, that's — that's the evidence that we believe in.
And so they said that in the '90s there was a high epidemic of SIDS, and the elders got together and decided that they needed to do something about it. And so they started to have these baby welcoming ceremonies. So there's a whole process that happens where you, you pray for your baby, you prophesize over your baby. You, you eat traditional foods, you get painted. There're just all of these things that happen that are so powerful when you think about how intentional you are to be able to welcome that baby.
And also we've been having conversations around like fatherhood and motherhood and traditional medicines to use, like bone broth soups and elderberry syrup and blood building syrups and the support around menopause, like out here working through those stages of life. Like. what are those responsibilities? Excuse me. And then just thinking of like the supports that we need around, around our pregnant and birthing families, postpartum families.
We've been, we're actually going to hire two folks coming up and it's going to be within the next month and we're so excited about it. But they're gonna be, they're Indigenous birth and death specialists. So we're not requiring them to have a doula certificate or have any kind of training. Because we know that that genius, just like Tasha mentioned earlier, that genius and that brilliance within our communities. We know the answers. We've been doing this for years and generations and generations. Since our communities were first created.
Like since the Creation are people knew how to support our folks through birth and through death. And we also know that that birth and death portal is the same portal. And when we forget how to die, or forget how to birth and we forget how to die, like vice versa. And so we've been having like necessary conversations because it's so stigmatized to think of birth and death in the same breath. But our communities face them, those things all the time. And so we're so excited to hire those next folks in the coming month. And so look out for more information on that. My allergies are crazy.
And we have been working really hard to engage the youth because we know that that they will carry these things forward. And when they're exposed to these things or they have opportunities to be engaged in these types of things this is where the, just like Tasha and I grew up around the same ceremony families as when we were young. We have grown up in the same community. And these are the patterns that we've been able to pick up because we're like, oh man, these are not separate, you know, our, our food and our birthing practices are not separate.
Our health and our wellness and our traditional ways and our language, these are not separate. But we keep being taught through government funding or programming that like, oh, this program does this, this program does that. And so we know that there's a weaving that has to happen. And it starts when you're super young. Just getting them exposed to what it is that they want to focus on or what it is that they want to learn about. And so we engage the youth.
Okay, you can go to the next one. And we also understand the importance of our elders in our process. And it's not always the easiest dialogue. And what we've had to learn is that we made our circle, like Tasha and myself and other community members, and I've seen [speaking in Lakota] that we have to have these conversations together so that when there are elders that are either being harmful in the ways that they state things or the ways that they share certain things that we can take the good from what they're sharing. Because, because there's so much rich genius and brilliance within everything that our elders share. We can take that good, but we can leave the stuff that's like, may still be colonized or may still be not helpful for what we're trying to do. But we could still love them as a whole.
And so we've been having hard conversations and, but also restoring conversations and we've been able to strengthen our relationships with our elders and our community members and process these things in a way that help to continue to uplift us. Because we have, as you all know, if you're working in the health care field or if you're working in any revitalization efforts that it can be hard if you don't have a team or a group. And so we understand that we don't do any of this alone.
But we'll share a little bit about the community of folks we've created. But we focus on ceremonies. Like, it's because we're in our own community, we can be, you know, centric or Lakota/ Dakota-centric because that's the way that we know and that's the, the ceremonies that we've been in Ocethi Sakowin neighboring reservations. We've been learning from each other in these ways. Excuse me.
So focusing on how these ceremonies have always helped us and uplifted us and created these paths for us to move forward. And we've heard from our elders that are our ways have never been, they've never been gone. We're not ever bringing anything back, but we're just helping to uplift these things again and remember them.
And so these images are from our Isnathi Awichalowanpi. So our Isnathi is a coming of age ceremony that we have. For right now, it's for menstruators, but we also allowed two-spirit to join. And we have, this year, our elder board member, she will be joining. And even though she's gone through menopause and all of these things, we know that these ceremonies haven't been afforded to our community members. You know, not everybody had that opportunity until we open it to, no matter what age you're in, or no matter what phase of menstruating or menopause that you're in. Because we know that these teachings are super important.
Okay, you can go to the next.
And so as we talked about the communities that we're building, one of the teachings that we've been doing is teachings around the tipi. So during our Isnathi Awichalowanpi, we share, we teach them to put up a tipi together because they're all, most of them don't know each other. But we teach them that they can put up their own home and that this is their home. And we teach them to communicate. And, you know, each, each pole has a different meaning. The way that you tie it to the ground has a meaning. There's so many things that are taught through the process.
And so we started to do this within the community. And from here we started — there's been a coalition that's been created. It's called the Oyate Oyuwitaya Community Coalition. And it's basically, since the No DAPL camp had started, there has been a lot of non-profits that have popped up. And so we are just doing our best to figure out what that looks like to work together. There's a lot of non-profits and LLCs and individuals and grassroots organizations, Tribal entities, all of these folks that want to work together, we just have created this. Not us, we created it with all of the other organizations together to figure out what it means to rebuild together, to have support systems, to share physical resources, to share community responsibilities, to offer historical perspectives, to connect over food, and re-learning these things together.
What does it mean to take each other as kin? To uplift language and culture and have community pride? And just to see the Indigenous brilliance and genius again, I'll say that forever because I just believe in it so much, that we have the answers. When I compare it to, like, if you go to therapy, a lot of times they'll tell you what's going on or tell you what's happening. But if you're with a coach who, who has certain facilitating practices, they'll continue to point you, point to you that you have the anthers. And so that's kinda where we are in our process of facilitating that.
Our community has the answers. We will do our best to try to find funding and create these spaces, but we want them to dig deep and figure out, like, you have the answers. What is it that you see the need is? How do you want to move forward? How do you work as a person? Are you more like bossy and out there? Are you kind of like waiting, sitting in the back or, you know, whatever it is, everyone has a role. And so that's what we want to uplift is those roles.
Tasha Peltier: And I think one of the other things, you know, kinda learning how sometimes the communities have a scarcity mentality. We forget how to work together and sometimes we even think we're in competition. So this is all part of the healing process for us as communities to remember how much stronger we are when we work together. And, but that takes time. And like Alayna said, we've been really trying to lean into some of that, highly facilitate some of that healing amongst each other. Because we know that a lot of our communities are still dealing with the negative impacts of colonization and we carry some of those unhealthy things, those habits. And so how do we start to work on that healing amongst each other, as communities, as families so that we can work to restore some of those things that we're working on?
And this coalition has been a really good example of that. It's just really beautiful to be able to lean on other people. And it's not always easy. I don't want to give the impression that it's all rainbows and unicorns. But, because there are difficult conversations we have to have, of course, as communities, but those are all necessary. That's important. It's natural, right? Those are natural parts of life. And so it's about how we work through those issues together. It's just been amazing to see the growth, I think as organizations that we've seen amongst each other, it's been great.
Alayna Eagle Shield: So we just, again, just thinking of how our way forward is through kinship. When we talk about kinship, when we call each other, like Tasha and I call each other sister or chuwe, or we call tunwin which is auntie, leksi is uncle. We just claim everybody like that, whether they're blood-related or not. Because we know that when you use kinship and you use those terms with each other, there's a responsibility that applies with those. So when you claim each other as a relative then you take care of each other as relatives. And so we believe that that's the way forward.
And, we had to leave 10 minutes. Blaze through it. I don't know how you want to do this.
Corinna Sabaque: Alright, thank you guys for the awesome presentation. I'm gonna go through a few questions that we have in our Q&A chat box.
So the first one here is, can you talk more about the two-spirit concept? I read recently that there's controversy around the term and also that non-Indigenous folks equate two-spirit to non-binary. But that's not quite right.
Alayna Eagle Shield: So I will attempt to answer. So we've had elders in our community that have told us that, like, this word's not our word and that's not what we use and all these things. And so our elder guide or mentor, Tunwin Beverly, she was a part of some of the movement that created the two-spirit word, back in — real recent, not too long ago. And she basically told us, it's not meant to be one of our words. This is a word that is meant to describe the movement now, into, for the two-spirit community.
And it's specifically for Indigenous folks. And so I've had non-Indigenous folks ask me like, I feel like I relate to two-spirit, and I just encourage them to find a word that describes them because this is an Indigenous-focused word and it's our word. It's our identification. So.
Corinna Sabaque: All right, great. So the next question here is, just out of curiosity, is there a lot of bed sharing with newborns? In my culture, it's very common. But in the US, it's strongly discouraged. And that leaves me feeling confused and guilty.
Alayna Eagle Shield: So we made up — oh, sorry, I'm just taking up space Tasha, I don't know if you want to answer too. But we just made a post recently, like a couple months ago, if you want to — I think it was like around the SIDS. And we talk about how important it is to figure out what that decision is for you. But we encourage bed sharing in a safe space like making sure that there's not blankets, whole bunch of pillows and things like that. But how traditionally, that's how babies self-regulate, how they are comforted. And we also encourage folks to use moss bags or cradleboards and things like that.
Corinna Sabaque: Let's take a couple more here. So do different Indigenous communities feel an innate kinship with one another? Or is it more that you've come together under a common banner to fight government sanctioned abuses?
Tasha Peltier: I don't know. I'll share a little bit what I think, and Alayna I don't know if you want to pipe in too, but I think that I've had experiences living in, I've lived in California, I've lived in other places and we just find each other no matter what community we're from, we, when you find another Indigenous family or person you just, like, cling to them because there are, of course we're all unique, we're all different, but we just feel some sort of connection, whether it's because we've maybe faced the same struggles. We have similar kinship systems.
We have — one of the things that I always laugh about, my husband was in the military, so we lived in California. So we had, we actually were friends with a lot of different nationalities, but they'd always say everybody is your cousin. Because when we would see people, other Natives, it was like, oh, that's my cousin when actually we probably were related in some way but they just didn't understand that because it was like, oh, that's not your first cousin, you know, but that's just how we are. We acknowledge those relationships and we just cling to each other. So I think that we do, we just have that innate kinship with each other no matter what Tribe we come from.
Corinna Sabaque: Alright, awesome answer. Last question here is, what is working for you to engage with youth?
Tasha Peltier: I think one of the things that we've, I don't think it's anything new to anybody but our youth want to learn things. They want to know, they want to be engaged in these things. And so one of the programs that we talked about was the [Lakota], or the land steward, the restore project. They do a lot of different things with gardening and harvesting and all of that. And when they bring youth along, they're just like sponges, they just absorb it. They want to do it, they want to learn about it. They want to do all these things. And so our youth are just waiting for us to engage them in those things. And so I think that if you create space for them, they will engage.
And then just being intentional, I think sometimes we get so caught up as adults of doing things where we're all in professional realms or whatever and we forget about our kids sometimes. And so one of the things I love about the work that we do is all of our kids are always there. They're with us, they're right there. They're doing those things, they're seeing that. And so that's important because I feel like in a colonized world, we try to separate the things that we do from our kids. All kids over here, adults, business, work over here, but we're trying to break that down and bring our kids with us.
One of the things that I think is so beautiful is Alayna and her family, they do everything together. They're always, no matter what it is. And like today, we've probably seen them in the background and I love that because, that's so important. We don't have to separate from each other to be successful or to do good work or to — So I think pushing back on that and just being inclusive of our youth is, our babies, it's so important. So yeah.
Alayna Eagle Shield: Well, I think that when we do it in community, sometimes we have to be mindful of, are we doing stuff on the weekend or during the week? Because it's so much more convenient and helpful for families and community if we could bus them in from the schools. So that's something we also take into consideration is like when we're having that buffalo teachings in May, we intentionally made it during the week so that the students could get bussed in. Because we know that transportation can be an issue or a barrier sometimes. [Coughs] Excuse me. So yeah.
Guthrie Capossela: It's awesome you guys are working to overcome the barriers, or anticipate the barriers.
So one more question, but a comment here from Dr. Anthony Staley. Good job. Remember talking with you about this project a few years ago. So happy to see this come into fruition. Bravo. Echo his sentiment.
Kind of last. Oh, there's a couple of more questions. Maybe we might have time to get both.
I noticed many Tribes are doing similar work you're all doing, but there's low turnout of community members. Do you all experience that? Pretty related kind of to the last question with the kids.
Alayna Eagle Shield: No. I think, yeah. Sometimes it can be transportation, sometimes it can be other things. And so we have been trying really hard. This summer we're working to get an RV or some type of mobile, mobile unit so that we can go into communities. But right now, we've been just trying to have things in the community that, because we have eight districts on Standing Rock, so we had a buffalo butchering in Rock Creek one time. We have different tree plantings in McLaughlin or Little Eagle or Bear Soldier. And so there's just, there's just different ways that we're trying to meet that, meeting with other communities. But I don't feel like there's a crazy, a low turnout. We have — The folks who show up are meant to show up and sometimes it's ones that we least expect. It ends up bringing more.
Tasha Peltier: And I think one of the other things that we recognize too is that in some of the things that we're doing because of colonization, people maybe don't feel worthy of those things or they don't feel like they can access those things. And so we're working really hard to make people feel accepted and where we want them to come and engage. But that's a process too, right? There's an internal maybe mindset that we're working on with people to understand that these things are for them and we welcome them.
Guthrie Capossela: Yeah, that's super true. Takes a while to kind of overcome that barrier. It's like an invisible barrier. I experienced that when I was doing language learning. That's really tough.
Alright, unfortunately, we've got one more question. Maybe we can answer that when we get to our informal Zoom piece. Corinna, can you toss the Zoom link in there too? Awesome. I'm going to share, Corinna did put the Zoom link within the chat. We're gonna get ready to migrate over to the more informal after-Q&A session, I do want to toss up the QR code on the screen real quick. That way, if that's easier for you to access, if you're on your phone. Can you guys see that or are you guys looking at yourselves? Okay. Perfect.
Thank you all for coming. I really appreciate it. We're gonna be migrating over to our post-session here. Please do fill out the survey. That really helps us improve. Corinna's talked a lot about that in terms of the feedback has been excellent and so we've been continuing to try to be responsive in that way. We don't have our next speaker lined up yet, but we will host it on the same schedule for the Thursday, April 20th. So look forward to seeing you all then.
If you're not able to jump on with us here in a few minutes, but hopefully see you all because I've seen a lot of names in here show up every week, but we haven't been able to see faces. So we're looking forward to meet some of you. See you all very soon.