Mending The Sacred Hoop Essay

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Over a hundred years ago Black Elk had a vision of a time when Indian people would heal from the devastating effects of European migration. In his vision, the Sacred Hoop, which had been broken, would be mended in seven generations. In 1990, a small group of Indian people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota began meeting to discuss the issues of violence in Native communities. This group was referred to as the Inter-Tribal Council to End Violence, which led to the creation of Mending the Sacred Hoop (MSH). This name was chosen for the organization to acknowledge the colonized history that has devastated the tribal communities and created the conditions in which Native women are brutalized.

There were various projects during these formative years, and in 1993, MSH established its core project of domestic violence systems advocacy and intervention in northern Minnesota. As MSH endured, it expanded to include training other communities across the country on its intervention efforts. In 1995, as part of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), MSH received a federal STOP Violence Against Indian Women grant that furthered its training and technical assistance and created Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project (MSH-TA). Through this grant, experienced Native trainers were identified and recruited to develop trainings and serve as resources for tribal communities addressing violence against American Indian and Alaskan Native women. The 14 STOP Violence Against Indian Women grantees, a handful of trainers or faculty, and a few MSH-TA staff set a vision and philosophy of a national scope that MSH continues to operate today.

The vision was to create a movement across Native communities and not to centralize expertise and resources in one place. At the time, MSH-TA was the only national organization addressing violence against women. Being a program based in Ojibwe country and northern Minnesota, it recognized its limitations in knowing all the complexities that are unique to each tribe or geographical area and knew the vulnerabilities of creating a dependency on one organization when, at the time, VAWA’s funding was only committed until the year 2000. MSH’s goal over 4 years was to build networks and expand the pool of trainers employing the concept, “Nin Gikenoo Amadimin,” which means, “We Teach Each Other,” so if the funding should cease there would be enough of a foundation that the work would continue on local and regional levels. Today there are five national Native technical assistance providers providing training and resources to well over 100 tribes funded through the Office on Violence Against Women.

In the upcoming years, MSH will continue with its local organizing and will branch out statewide, and on a national level, it will assist tribes in developing their own responses to violence against women in program development, grant management, the implementation of batterer’s intervention programs, and creating a national network of Native batterer’s intervention programs. From local criminal and civil court intervention efforts, to national collaborations with Native and non Native organizations, MSH continues to raise the issues in Native communities and the experiences of Native women. MSH truly believes the health, survival, and sovereignty of Native people are directly connected to the safety and well-being of Native women.

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