<![CDATA[Sharing Culture - David's Blog]]>Mon, 06 Mar 2017 17:32:05 -0800Weebly<![CDATA['The Incredible Legacy of Susan La Flesche, the First Native American to Earn a Medical Degree' by Carson Vaughan]]>Sun, 05 Mar 2017 23:59:33 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/the-incredible-legacy-of-susan-la-flesche-the-first-native-american-to-earn-a-medical-degree-by-carson-vaughan
Found this fascinating article on the Smithsonian website. The picture shows Susan, far left, with her husband (seated with puppy) at their Bancroft, Nebraska, home. (Courtesy of the Hampton University Archives) This is a wonderful story.

With few rights as a woman and as an Indian, the pioneering doctor provided valuable health care and resources to her Omaha community.

When 21-year-old Susan La Flesche first stepped off the train in Philadelphia in early October 1886, nearly 1,300 miles from her Missouri River homeland, she’d already far surpassed the country’s wildest expectations for a member of the so-called “vanishing race.”

Born during the Omaha’s summer buffalo hunt in June 1865 in the northeast corner of the remote Nebraska Territory, La Flesche graduated second in her class from the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, now Hampton University. She was fluent in English and her native tongue, could speak French and Otoe, too. She quoted scripture and Shakespeare, spent her free time learning to paint and play the piano. She was driven by her father’s warning to his young daughters: “Do you always want to be simply called those Indians or do you want to go to school and be somebody in the world?”

The wind-whipped plains of her homeland behind her once again, she arrived in Philadelphia exhausted from the journey, months of financial worry, logistical concerns, and of course, by the looming shadow of the mountain now before her: medical school. Within days, she would attend her first classes at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, a world apart from the powwows, buffalo hunts and tipis of her childhood.

Standing at the vanguard of medical education, the WMCP was the first medical school in the country established for women. If she graduated, La Flesche would become the country’s first Native American doctor. But first, she would need to break into a scientific community heavily skewed by sexist Victorian ideals, through a zeitgeist determined to undercut the ambitions of the minority.

“We who are educated have to be pioneers of Indian civilization,” she told the East Coast crowd during her Hampton graduation speech. “The white people have reached a high standard of civilization, but how many years has it taken them? We are only beginning; so do not try to put us down, but help us to climb higher. Give us a chance.”

Three years later, La Flesche became a doctor. She graduated as valedictorian of her class and could suture wounds, deliver babies and treat tuberculosis. But as a woman, she could not vote—and as an Indian, she could not call herself a citizen under American law.


In 1837, following a trip to Washington on the government’s dime, Chief Big Elk returned to the Omaha people with a warning. “There is a coming flood which will soon reach us, and I advise you to prepare for it,” he told them. In the bustling streets of the nation’s capital, he’d seen the future of civilization, a universe at odds with the Omaha’s traditional ways. To survive, Big Elk said, they must adapt. Before his death in 1853, he chose a man with a similar vision to succeed him as chief of the Omaha Tribe - a man of French and Indian descent named Joseph La Flesche, Susan’s father.

“Decade after decade, [Joseph] La Flesche struggled to keep threading an elusive bicultural needle, one that he believed would ensure the success of his children, the survival of his people,” writes Joe Starita, whose biography of La Flesche, A Warrior of the Peoplewas released last year.

Joseph’s bold push for assimilation - “It is either civilization or extermination,” he often said - wasn’t readily adopted by the whole tribe.

Soon the Omaha splintered between the “Young Men’s Party,” open to the incorporation of white customs, and the “Chief’s Party,” a group loyal to traditional medicine men who wouldn’t budge. When the Young Men’s Party started building log cabins rather than teepees, laying out roads and farming individual parcels, the conservatives nicknamed the north side of the reservation “The Village of the Make-Believe White Men.” It was here, in a log cabin shared by her three older sisters, that Susan grew up learning to walk a tightrope between her heritage and her future.

“These were choices made to venture into the new world that confronted Omahas,” says John Wunder, professor emeritus of history and journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The La Flesche family was adept at learning and adopting languages, religions, and cultures. They never forgot their Omaha culture; they, we might say, enriched it with greater knowledge of their new neighbors.”

It was here, in the Village of the Make-Believe White Men, that La Flesche first met a Harvard anthropologist named Alice Cunningham Fletcher, a women’s rights advocate who would shepherd her to the East and up the long, often prejudiced ladder of formal education.

And it was here, in the Village of the Make-Believe White Men, that a young Susan La Flesche, just 8 years old, stayed at the bedside of an elderly woman in agonizing pain, waiting for the white agency doctor to arrive.

Four times, a messenger was sent. Four times, the doctor said he’d be there soon. Not long before sunrise, the woman died. The doctor never came. The episode would haunt La Flesche for years to come, but it would steel her, too. “It was only an Indian,” she would later recall, “and it [did] not matter.”


None of the challenges of her education could fully prepare La Flesche for what she encountered upon her return to the reservation as physician for the Omaha Agency, which was operated by the Office of Indian Affairs. Soon after she opened the doors to her new office in the government boarding school, the tribe began to file in. Many of them were sick with tuberculosis or cholera, others simply looking for a clean place to rest. She became their doctor, but in many ways their lawyer, accountant, priest and political liaison. So many of the sick insisted on Dr. Susan, as they called her, that her white counterpart suddenly quit, making her the only physician on a reservation stretching nearly 1,350 square miles.

She dreamed of one day building a hospital for her tribe. But for now, she made house calls on foot, walking miles through wind and snow, on horseback and later in her buggy, traveling for hours to reach a single patient. But even after risking her own life to reach a distant patient, she would often encounter Omahas who rejected her diagnosis and questioned everything she’d learned in a school so far away.

Over the next quarter-century, La Flesche fought a daily battle with the ills of her people. She led temperance campaigns on the reservation, remembering a childhood when white whiskey peddlers didn’t loiter around the reservation, clothing wasn’t pawned and land wasn’t sold for more drink. Eventually she did marry and have children. But the whiskey followed her home. Despite her tireless efforts to wean her people away from alcohol, her own husband slipped in, eventually dying from tuberculosis amplified by his habit.

But she kept fighting. She opened a private practice in nearby Bancroft, Nebraska, treating whites and Indians alike. She persuaded the Office of Indian Affairs to ban liquor sales in towns formed within the reservation boundaries. She advocated proper hygiene and the use of screen doors to keep out disease carrying flies, waged unpopular campaigns against communal drinking cups and the mescal used in new religious ceremonies. And before she died in September 1915, she solicited enough donations to build the hospital of her dreams in the reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska, the first modern hospital in Thurston County.


And yet, unlike so many male chiefs and warriors, Susan La Flesche was virtually unknown beyond the Omaha Reservation until earlier this year, when she became the subject of Starita’s book and a PBS documentary titled “Medicine Woman.”

“Why did they say we were a vanishing race? Why did they say we were the forgotten people? I don’t know,” says Wehnona Stabler, a member of the Omaha and CEO of the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center in Macy, Nebraska. “Growing up, my father used to say to all of us kids, ‘If you see somebody doing something, you know you can do it, too.’ I saw what Susan was able to do, and it encouraged me when I thought I was tired of all this, or I didn’t want to be in school, or I missed my family.”

The Omaha tribe still faces numerous health care challenges on the reservation. In recent years, charges of tribal corruption and poor patient care by the federal Indian Health Service has dogged the Winnebago Hospital, which today serves both the Omaha and Winnebago tribes. The hospital of La Flesche’s dreams closed in the 1940s - it’s now a small museum -  marooning Walthill residents halfway between the 13-bed hospital seven miles north, and the Carl T. Curtis clinic nine miles east, to say nothing of those living even further west on a reservation where transportation is hardly a given. Alcoholism still plagues the tribe, alongside amphetamines, suicide and more.

But more access to health care is on the way, Stabler says, and La Flesche “would be very proud of what we’re doing right now.” Last summer, the Omaha Tribe broke ground on both an $8.3 million expansion of the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center in Macy, and a new clinic in Walthill.
“Now people are putting her story out, and that’s what I want. Maybe it’s going to spark another young native woman. You see her do it, you know you can do it, too.""

​Yes, truly a wonderful story. 
<![CDATA[Canada's Dark Secret]]>Sun, 05 Mar 2017 00:15:20 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/canadas-dark-secret
Found this important film on the Top Documentary Films website. Well worth a watch. I've shortened the paragraphs from the original text. [NB. There is an advert before the film] 

"It's an ominous history that dates back well over a century ago. It's a legacy that shames present-day residents of Canada, and its wounds have lingered over several generations.

The country's Indigenous populations, much of which were of Indian descent, were forced from their homes at an early age, taken to a series of residential schools, and assimilated into "civilized" society through strict discipline and oftentimes abusive practices. 

Canada's Dark Secret lifts the veil on this horrendous system of indoctrination, and chronicles several of its tormented victims.

These policies were put into place by the Canadian government as an extension of the Indian Act of 1876, a piece of legislation which allowed institutions great leeway in their attempts to rid Indigenous people of their cultural identity. Residential schools were established to facilitate the process.

If parents refused to relinquish custody of their children to these government-sanctioned institutions, they faced harsh penalties and prison sentences. Meanwhile, the punishment inflicted upon the children was even more grotesque once they arrived at their new homes.

The film imparts its harrowing tale through intensely personal testimonies. As she steps through the now barren and corroded classrooms of the Mohawk Residential School, survivor Roberta Hill recalls the horrors she experienced when she first arrived there at the age of six.

Another survivor speaks of her best friend and classmate, who she suspects was beaten to death and buried among six thousand other children who are thought to have perished on school grounds.

Bud Whiteye shares the story of how he was kidnapped from his reservation as a youngster, and he revisits the campus boiler room where he was sodomized by a member of the school staff. For these victims and others just like them, each barren school building is truly a haunted house.

The last of these schools closed in the late 90's, but their hideous imprint remains. A survivor's grief never ends, nor does the guilt of those who found themselves unwitting accomplices to these horrors. 

Canada's Dark Secret is a horror film in the truest sense. But by shining light on a history long-shrouded by time, it achieves a measure of catharsis for all involved.

Directed by
Rania El Rafael
<![CDATA[Revel: A Story of Art, Social Justice and Resilience ]]>Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:28:33 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/revel-a-story-of-art-social-justice-and-resiliencePicture
As some of you will know, I've been busy over the past year working on a new project focused on the Aboriginal artist Revel Cooper. My close colleague Mike Liu and I have been deeply involved in research and development of this exciting project.

I've just loaded six Revel project web pages onto our Sharing Culture website so please check out what we've been up to. Here's a brief summary of the project:

"Surviving the death of his mother at age five, the harsh conditions of a 1940s government native settlement, a murder trial and years of incarceration, Revel Cooper became a self-determined man who spoke for the rights of Aboriginal people. He played a large part in developing one of Australia's first Indigenous art movements that still thrives today. Revel died in 1983 in tragic circumstances, and was buried thousands of kilometres from his homeland and family."

'Revel' was originally planned to be a feature length documentary about various aspects of Revel Cooper's life, which would be directed by Mike Liu. It would focus on Aboriginal art, social justice and resilience to adversity, as well as the search for family that had been fragmented for generations. 

However, as time has gone by the project has grown and grown. It has now developed into a slate of projects, 
one of which remains the original documentary. I've recently been focused on Revel's early life, including his time at Carrolup and his murder trial.

researching for a documentary film, as well as  developing an educational multimedia iBook. It all keeps me very busy. It's been a real pleasure and a great experience working with Mike. He is in one of those talented, passionate people with a 'Big Heart'. He is an amazing researcher and we are uncovering all sorts of fascinating stuff about Revel. 

Please check our six project webpages, which you can move along from link to link. You'll learn about some of the fascinating stories that our films and related projects will touch upon, as well as different elements of our initiative. You can also meet some of the team who have helped us along our journey.

​One very special person has been Cathy Coomer, a niece of Revel Cooper. I've learnt so much from Cathy.

<![CDATA[With a new film, Ivan Sen wants to draw attention to Indigenous youth suicide]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 02:06:22 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/with-a-new-film-ivan-sen-wants-to-draw-attention-to-indigenous-youth-suicide
Here is an interesting recent article from the Sydney Morning Herald. I am sure that Ivan's new film will be essential viewing and make some important statements. Please check it out when it is released.
The tragedy of youth suicide in Aboriginal communities has inspired a new film from Ivan Sen.

The acclaimed Indigenous director of Beneath CloudsMystery Roadand Goldstone has gone back to his home town of Tamworth in northern NSW to shoot This Winter.

What sounds like a raw, moving but hopeful drama, often shot by Sen as a one-man film crew, centres on an Indigenous mother dealing with a son arriving back from jail after losing another son to suicide.

"It's a big exploration of the cutting of what I call love lines within Indigenous families," he says. "It's the disconnection of family love and culture at the same time for young people."

Having written, directed, produced and shot This Winter, Sen was editing it before heading to the Toronto International Film Festival where the outback drama Goldstone competed in the Platform section for "artistically stimulating and thought-provoking" films.

In Mystery Road and Goldstone, both of which have opened the Sydney Film Festival, Sen confronted simmering tensions between black and white Australia in stories centring on an Indigenous detective played by Aaron Pedersen. 

With his new film, which stars Ursula Yovich from Australia and The Code, and newcomer Brandon Waters, he wants to draw attention to what he calls an epidemic of suicide among young Indigenous people.

"Because it's not reported in the media, it's something that I don't think we have a really good idea about," Sen says. "My cousins have told me numerous stories about how they've tried to help young people stop killing themselves."

"But down the track, these children they've saved have gone and killed themselves, feeling that there's no support in their town."

Along the lines of his raw 2011 drama Toomelah, also shot in northern NSW, Sen shot fast and low-key with a first-time actor - 20-year-old Waters, whose connection to the story included losing an uncle to suicide. 

The young Indigenous actor has proven to be a natural on screen.

"I was casting when I walked into my cousin's house," Sen says. "His son just walked in, shook my hand and said, 'Hello cuz'.

"He just grabbed me in that second, so I asked him if he was interested and he was totally keen.

"And even with all the actors I've worked with, I've never felt such a confidence in front of the camera. It's a hard thing to describe, but he's got a magic that I've never had before in front of the camera."

Working on a "sub-atomic" budget, Sen had help filming from young Indigenous locals, some of whom could quote lines from his films.

"I had all these kids on the streets going, 'I want to be in the movie'," he says. "One guy grabbed the microphone to help. The next day he was there to do it again."

The film was largely shot in a house near the railway tracks in Tamworth.

"On the days we went below the tracks, we had ice addicts all over the place when we were filming," Sen says.

After feeling uncomfortable during previous trips back to his home town, Sen found filming there cathartic.

"I think I've worked through that and reclaimed it as part of my identity," he says. "It was a chance for me to connect to the place where I grew up."

Once This Winter is finished, Sen will screen the film for international festivals but sees a key audience at home.

​"It's becoming more important for me to make films for Indigenous communities to see themselves on screen," he says.
<![CDATA['Royal Commission Revelations Make Tough Reading for Stolen Generations' by Bringing Them Home Committee (WA)]]>Tue, 07 Feb 2017 23:30:08 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/royal-commission-revelations-make-tough-reading-for-stolen-generations-by-bringing-them-home-committee-waPicture

I had an interesting meeting with Jim Morrison, Alan Carter and Keith Bodman of the Bringing Them Home Committee WA yesterday. The meeting took places in the offices of the former Chief Protector Mr A O Neville. We were touching base to find out what each was doing. I have blogged earlier about the Committee's plans to develop cultural healing centres in the old missions.

Here is a recent media release from the Bringing Them Home Committee WA:

'The recent revelations about the appallingly high level of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church makes tough reading for the Stolen Generations survivors as they continue with their struggle to get action from Governments on the 54 recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report that was produced 20 years ago.

“Whilst the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been welcomed by many in the Aboriginal Community, for others there is a great sense of frustration and anger that many of the issues being examined are similar to those raised during the hearings that were undertaken by the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into the Removal of Aboriginal Children”, according to Jim Morrison, Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA).

“The Report of that Inquiry, which became known as the Bringing Them Home Report, was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on the 26th May 1997 and so this year we will be commemorating the twentieth anniversary of that significant report.”

“The Bringing Them Home Report included reference to the high level of sexual abuse in institutional care, including the staggering fact that “…stories of sexual exploitation and abuse were common in evidence to the Inquiry…and that at least one in every six (17.5%) of witnesses to the Inquiry reported such victimisation”(1).”

“Sadly, only a handful of the 54 recommendations contained in that report have been implemented by Commonwealth or State Governments over the past twenty years. The ongoing pain and trauma suffered by those abused children, and subsequently by their families as a result of intergenerational trauma, has not been acknowledged and reparation and culturally appropriate healing has not been made available to those people.”

“There will be significant events around Australia on 26th May 2017 to commemorate the Twentieth Anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report. In Perth, we will be calling for action from Commonwealth and State Governments to implement the remaining recommendations and hope that the timing of these recent revelation in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will prompt a more sympathetic response!’ Mr Morrison concluded.

For further comment: Jim Morrison Mobile: 0408 917 133
  1. Bringing Them Home Report (1997) page 194' 

<![CDATA[Introducing Lance Chadd, Tjyllyungoo]]>Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:00:45 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/introducing-lance-chadd-tjyllyungoo
Here's a beautiful short film about a very talented Noongar artist. I first came across Lance's work when I was looking for a piece of art to give my daughter Annalie and her fiancee Max as an engagement present. Fell in love with a beautiful Tjyllungoo watercolour, which now sits in Annalie and Max's house in Manchester, UK. 

On the back of the art, Lance had written that he was inspired by Revel Cooper. Coincidentally, I am currently working on a book and film about Revel Cooper's fascinating life. Lance is related to another Carrolup artist, Reynold Hart. I love Reynold and Revel's artworks. 

Here is the YouTube intro to this film:

Contemporary West Australian artist Lance Chadd who works under his traditional Aboriginal name Tjyllyungoo, was commissioned by Edith Cowan University in 2015 to produce a painting for ECU's new building Ngoolark, situated on its Joondalup campus.

This film captures the artist at work on his painting 'Ngoolark' based on the black cockatoo which bears this Nyoongar name, and which features in the dramatic design and architecture of the new building in which the painting will be housed. The film also briefly touches on the artist's diverse and spiritually-rich oeuvre of work and his deep connection with the land and his Aboriginal heritage.
<![CDATA['How Communities Create Change' by Lewis Mehl-Madrona]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 03:05:55 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/how-communities-create-change-by-lewis-mehl-madrona
Here are some powerful words from one of my favourite people, Lewis Mehl-Madrona from his excellent book Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry (my paragraphing below).
'Communities can create powerful shared narratives, which allow all their members to look in the same direction, to share intentionality, and to experience the belongingness of coherence with other people. This sense of group coherence and shared intention, cultivated by being in a group that regularly does ceremony together, holds more power than do "powerful shamans" or other healers.

Spiritual power arises through relationship. It arises from common prayer, from coherent thought generated by shared intention. People who pray together or share spiritual practice together week after week become coherent with each other.

When I encounter people who have experienced miraculous (by biomedical standards) healing, these people are usually members of tight-knit communities, whether on rural or remote reservations or in the middle of ethnic neighborhoods in the largest cities.

What seems important is duration of relationship, longer history of exposure to doing ceremony together, and being in cohesive spiritual relationship with each other. When these conditions are met, miracles can occur.

​Elders and ceremonial leaders certainly can be wonderful people who inspire confidence, faith, and hope, and whose cultivation of relationships with spirits is helpful in healing, but their role rides on top of a solid community of long-term relationships that build interconnectedness and a communal mind.

​I suspect that the mainstream media miss the importance of community and focus on the idea of the powerful, individual healer as a result of the pervasive individualistic paradigms and the contemporary preferences of mainstream Euro-American culture to find quick fixes and answers outside of ourselves...

... Communities are more powerful than individuals - a consistent lesson from indigenous cultures.'
<![CDATA[Noongar Smoking Ceremony at Fremantle Round House]]>Tue, 31 Jan 2017 06:26:31 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/noongar-smoking-ceremony-at-fremantle-round-house
Last Saturday morning, I was privileged to attend a Noongar Smoking Ceremony at Fremantle Round House. It was a very moving occasion.

The Smoking Ceremony was to commence the healing of the spirits of those Aboriginal people who were captured and imprisoned on Rottnest Island (Wandjemup). It was part of a day long celebration of events that Fremantle put on as an alternative to the Australia Day celebrations. The celebrations on 26th January offend many Aboriginal people - they consider this day to be Invasion Day. Many non-Aboriginal people, including myself, believe that the date of Australia Day should be changed.

Well done to Robert and Selina Eggington of Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, and all other people involved in putting on this event. You can check out more photographs on Robert's Facebook page or through Wendy Slee's page. Awesome photos, Wendy! Also check out the SBS TV coverage here.

As you can see, I'm now back in Perth after a long trip to see my children in the UK. I've actually been back a few weeks, but been very busy working on our Revel project. The time that I am spending on this project means that I will not be able to blog as much as I have previously done some months ago. My sincere apologies. I'll certainly keep you informed of progress on the Revel project.
<![CDATA['Let's honour the invisible work of Aboriginal women tackling domestic violence' by Larissa Behrendt]]>Tue, 22 Nov 2016 04:55:26 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/lets-honour-the-invisible-work-of-aboriginal-women-tackling-domestic-violence-by-larissa-behrendtPicture
Here's an excellent article from one of my favourite Aboriginal writers which has just appeared in the Guardian. 

'Women in Indigenous communities in Australia refuse too accept the shocking levels of violence against them. A new Guardian series highlights significant work on the frontline around the country. 

Recently I attended a meeting at the Redfern Community Centre of Aboriginal women working with other Aboriginal women to help them transition from prison back into the community.

Several things struck me that morning but the most overwhelmingly was the number of Aboriginal women who, with no resources, were doing work that was essential in supporting other Aboriginal women. The work they were focused on was targeting women who were the most likely to fall through the gaps of mainstream services, the ones who will leave prison with the fewest options and resources and the ones most vulnerable to recidivism or to enter repeat cycles of violence.

Another observation among this group of highly motivated and determined women was how important it was for them to take the time to talk about shared concerns. Strikingly, they had not met as a group before because taking time away from the frontline work, even for a couple of hours, seemed like a luxury, but there seemed to be great power in bringing the group together. They shared many similar frustrations even though they used experience and street smarts to navigate the criminal justice, welfare and social housing systems on behalf of their clients.

A large part of the stories these women told about their own experiences or those of the women they were helping involved domestic violence. Breaking that cycle was a key part of their work and they exchanged stories about how little support there was for their clients from mainstream services because the needs were so specialised.

We can hear the statistics of the level of domestic violence faced by Aboriginal women and children and feel the enormous horror. The recent landmark study in Victoria, the “Always was, always will be Koori children” report, showed that 88% of Aboriginal children had been exposed to family violence. It is easy to be outraged and wonder why the Indigenous community isn’t doing something about it.

The fact is Indigenous people - as a new Guardian Australia series launching this week shows - are doing plenty. The work being done in Redfern is replicated in communities across the country. And not just by women. Many community-based projects are now requiring men to take responsibility for violence. In particular, programs that prevent men participating in team sport if they have engaged in domestic violence is one example of serious attempts to change male culture and behaviour in a positive way.

It may look to some people on the outside that not enough is being done because they just don’t see it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It is the nature of the work that it is often poorly paid or not paid at all and tends to be invisible. Community members work with few resources – and often little institutional support – and so their work, while critically important and life changing to individual clients, cannot hope to counter, quickly and swiftly, the systemic underlying issues that lead to domestic violence.

Sitting among those women that morning, I thought about how often I am asked by mainstream services working in issues that greatly affect Indigenous women - including domestic violence - about how they can get Indigenous women involved in their programs. How can they find someone to sit on their advisory committee or to run a program they have funding for?

It seems to me that this is the wrong question. Rather than asking about how to get more Indigenous women to work on the programs they have designed and are running, perhaps the questions should be how those organisations can support the work Aboriginal women are trying to do within their own community. Empower them to be even greater agents of change within their communities.

Indigenous women are the most marginalised within the community. They have no voice, no media platform and no influence. They spend more time doing and no time talking about what they are doing on the most difficult parts of the frontline. As journalist and broadcaster Amy McQuire has pointed out, their voices are “frequently left out, as the media construct false narratives around silence in order to ironically, silence others.” 

As McQuire points out, assuming that Aboriginal women are so depraved that they put up with, and even cover up, shocking levels of abuse deprives them of humanity. The majority of Aboriginal women do not find violence acceptable and do not believe it should be tolerated as a part of their culture. Whatever the arguments about what role violence has played in Aboriginal society, nothing changes the fact that it is not to be tolerated as part of the culture in our communities today, any more than it should be in any other community anywhere in the world.

There are several things that would better support Indigenous women who are the agents of change within their community in the area of domestic violence. Funding Indigenous community-based and controlled organisations to do the essential work to deliver the programs and support to Indigenous people who are the victims of family violence, and trying to escape it, is an important step.

Another is it to acknowledge their work, pay respect to their determination and commitment and to honour the way in which they are working to make a profound difference in the lives of other Aboriginal women.

And perhaps the most important thing is to listen to what they know, what they have learned and what they believe needs to be done and support them to do it.'

<![CDATA['We must listen to the Dakota Access pipeline protesters, not punish them' by Mark Ruffalo]]>Thu, 03 Nov 2016 22:42:10 GMThttp://sharingculture.info/davids-blog/we-must-listen-to-the-dakota-access-pipeline-protesters-not-punish-them-by-mark-ruffaloPicture
In her excellent book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein says that Indigenous peoples of the world are on the front line in trying to protect our planet from being destroyed by industry and high finance. This is well illustrated by what is happening at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Here is an article from actor Mark Ruffalo which appeared in the Guardian that describes what is happening in at Standing Rock.

'Last week, I was privileged to spend two days at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Thousands of Native Americans have been camping along the Missouri river for months in an effort to defend clean water and sacred land from the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

I had my heart broken listening to the testimony of Chase Iron Eyes and Bobbi Jean Three Legs in a town-hall-style meeting. I had my hope renewed standing under grey prairie skies beside the Rev Jesse Jackson, bearing witness to the largest gathering of Native Americans in modern history. Representing hundreds of tribes, these courageous water protectors support the Standing Rock Sioux, defending their water and their way of life.
Plans call for the Dakota Access pipeline to carry highly toxic fracked oil across four states, 200 waterways, and land sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux. The protesters know that pipelines leak, explode, pollute and poison land and water, and they don’t want that happening to any of the millions of people who depend on the Missouri river. So they protest - peacefully. Inspired by a band of young Lakota runners crisscrossing the country on foot, they spend their days praying and chanting, and saying “no” to violations of their land, their health and their freedom.

But their peaceful efforts are being met with force. I heard first-hand accounts of violent encounters with armed private security guards, police bearing assault rifles, and aggressive arrests by the hundreds. I see the faces of the people I met on my Facebook feed, now marred by rubber bullets, eyes watering from teargas. Against these unarmed protesters, North Dakota’s governor has spent millions of dollars on additional security forces and even sent in the national guard.

This makes no sense. North Dakota is not in a state of emergency; it is in a state of grace. The protesters threaten nothing except an outdated system of dirty, dangerous energy.

What if, instead of brutalizing these protesters, we took a moment to listen to them? Not only are these men and women putting their bodies on the line to protect precious resources - they are charting the way to a better future for all of us.

I went to North Dakota at the invitation of Wahleah Johns, founder of Native Renewables. She grew up in a traditional Navajo community poisoned by a giant strip-mining operation and now works to create low-cost clean energy solutions for Native American families. Together, we delivered Navajo-made portable solar panels to provide clean energy to power medical tents and other camp facilities as winter approaches. The solar trailers symbolize a healthy, equitable, prosperous energy future made possible by clean renewable energy.

Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network is working ceaselessly to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. She grew up on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and witnessed the terrible toll oil drilling and fracking took on the health of native people who lived nearby. She came to Standing Rock with her toddler on her hip and a powerful sense of justice.

David Archambault II is the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman. As I arrived in North Dakota, he was in my home state of New York sharing what’s happening at Standing Rock with a room full of philanthropists, inviting them to stand on the right side of history and support those working to stop the pipeline. 

These indigenous leaders are just a few of the thousands of water protectors who know first-hand the toxic legacy of fossil fuel extraction and exploitation. They are forging a new path that integrates the latest in clean energy innovation with indigenous wisdom that cares for community, protects the land and looks toward the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren.

This clean-energy path is supported, too, by science and economics. Research from Stanford University shows it would be technologically feasible and economically beneficial for the US to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. In fact, the shift is already happening. North Dakota already gets almost a quarter of its electricity from wind and water. Worldwide, renewables have now overtaken coal as the largest source of installed electric-generating capacity, according to the International Energy Agency. Every day of 2015 saw half a million solar panels installed around the planet.

Given this ongoing shift to clean energy - and the fact that renewables offer a more sustainable, more prosperous, and healthier future - it seems almost unbelievable that North Dakota authorities are spending energy and money violently defending a dying and dangerous system of energy production. This is not a conflict that can be resolved with brutality and ridicule. Rather, it must be faced with common humanity - with prayer, love and community, and first of all, with listening.

Like so many others who have heard the water defenders, I am standing 100% with Standing Rock - standing on the side of clean water, renewable energy and a just and healthy future for us all.'

There is good coverage - probably better than main media - of Standing Rock on social media. Please check out, for instance, Walking the Red Road.