The 13th National Indian Nations Conference: Justice for Victims of Crime was a wonderful opportunity for Sophia Kizilbash and I to take part in. We were amongst many people who work on the front lines of the expansive field of criminal justice and community healing.
“The purpose of the 13th National Indian Nations Conference − the largest U.S. Department of Justice sponsored Indian Nations conference − is to bring together Native American victims, victim advocates, tribal leaders, victim service providers, community volunteers, prosecutors, judicial and law enforcement personnel, family violence and sexual assault specialists, medical providers, social services and mental health personnel, probation/corrections, criminal justice and juvenile justice personnel, as well as federal and state agency representatives to share their knowledge, experiences and ideas for developing programs that serve the unique needs of crime victims in Indian Country.”
It was exciting to receive a scholarship through the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice to attend the conference, for which we are so grateful. We attended a pre-conference session called “Victim/Survivor Healing through Art “in which famous artist Sam English led. Sam spoke of ways to work with children through painting that creates an outlet for expression and in turn, healing. Everyone in the room was split into groups and each individual drew their own art pieces of how the subject made them feel or their present feelings. Then the group decided as a whole how to incorporate this into a single painting, whether it was integrating the pieces or creating an entirely different piece. Sophia and I were in the same group and we all decided to use our pieces together as a collage. (This is our blog featured photo).
On the first day of the conference, the first workshop I attended was titled “Vicarious Trauma: Traditional Modalities of Prevention and Response for Service Providers.” This session discussed the ways of self-healing with traditional healing methods such as smudging or going into the sweat lodge. There was also a sharing of self-regulation methods in which the front line service provider is able to communicate to the supervisor when overwhelmed and self-care is necessary.
The second workshop was “Mending the Rainbow: Working with the Native LGBT/Two-Spirit Community” with Elton Naswood and Mattee Jim. This was an introduction to LBGTQ/2S terms, history and overview. Up to date statistics about what Native LGBTQ/2S members face in society and the perceptions within Native communities. Most Native American societies integrated LGBTQ/2S members respectfully into their societies.
The second day of the conference I attended three more sessions. The fist was “University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Trauma-informed Care: Reducing Effects of Trauma Exposure in Indian Country. Dolores Subia Bigfoot talked about working with Native youth and being sensitive with emotional traumas and triggers. It is estimated that up to 40% of sexual abuse/trauma is from peer to peer abuse at preteen ages and Bigfoot speaks of how important it is to sit with older children about how this behavior is not ok.
The second workshop was “The Power of Story: The Use of Story and Spirituality to End Domestic Violence, Child Sexual Abuse, and Child Neglect in the Native Community” through the Alaskan Native Family Wellness Initiative. This was a powerful session that showcased a short film they made that call forward warriors to stop these different forms of violence by speaking up about and against these forms of violence. By providing one another with support, the process of healing can begin without shame or guilt. The session explained that the format storytelling lines with the beginning as taking the first step in acknowledging one is carrying an trauma and can’t be fully present in their lives, to the middle of taking the journey toward resolve and healing and the end in coming to that resolve.
The third and final workshop attended was titled “Collaborative Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution Between Tribal, Local, and State Governments and Community Members.” This session was an open forum in which people in the audience directed the conversation of how to mediate this process. The main suggestion was to present to the state the history of Native American sovereignty rights, our tribal government systems and how they work with the emphasis of working together.
The entire conference was so informational and the feelings were positive, despite the heavy subject matter. It felt good to speak to people in the mental health field who are working with youth and gave me some insight of methods to use when I begin my journey into this field down the road. It was also refreshing to speak to artists like Sam English who also work with youth and non-profit organizations that promote healing through artistic and creative outlets.
I was quite honored to meet Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes Deborah Parker who spoke so much for the Violence Against Women Act. Her story and strength brought so much mobilizing energy to the conference while providing insight of the act and the tribal provisions being pushed for integration. The conference also provided some humor as most people say laughter is medicine, with Dallas Goldtooth of the 1491s. Goldtooth told jokes but also spoke of how media can help our Native communities relay messages of healing to a broader audience and in Indian country.
This was an amazing opportunity that I certainly feel honored to have attended. It’s important to have this sort of platform for Native service providers to get together, have a dialogue and support one another. It is also unique in that it is dedicated to Native American communities, which I feel NYLA can also speak closely to.
I would like to thank NYLA for letting me be a part of the community of young leaders working for positive change and Sophia Kizilbash for providing support, love and informational resources.
 Taken from the National Indian Nations Conference website www.ovcinc.org