. >> Good morning. Good morning, everyone. My name is Patricia Flores and I’m the advocacy coordinator here at WCSAP. Welcome to our first of eight keynote series that WCSAP is putting on with really incredible presenters for really incredible participants. We’re so happy to start this out on May 5th, 2021. And I’m going to begin with a land acknowledgment. We would like to ackownledge that we are meeting on indigenous land. Moreover, we would like to acknowledge and pay our respects to the Carrizo and Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Tigua Pueblo.
With humility and reverence, we set the tone for this gathering, and with this heart knowledge at the forefront of our minds. We acknowledge and invite our ancestors into this space who if it were not for them, we would not be here doing this sacred work. And before I introduce our guest speaker, I would like to read you a poem caddish yatome, mourner’s prayer.
02:08 - When I die, give what’s left of me away to children and old men that wait to die. And if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you. And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me. I want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds. Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind. You can love me best by letting hands touch hands and by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do. So when all that’s left of me, this love, give me away. And now, I would like to read Theda’s introduction, and then she will be blessing us with her wisdom and her experience and knowledge. Theda New Breast, MHP, masters in public health, black foot name, which is Milky Way, yes, from the universe, Milky Way, born and raised on the blackfeet reservation in Montana with a relocation experience in the San Francisco Bay area during the civil rights movement, entering U.
C. Berkeley at 17 years old and receiving her BSW and M pH in health promotion and prevention. Theda is a founding board member and master trainer/facilitator for the native wellness institute NWI, 1988 to present. She is also a board member of the sovereign bodies institute, launched in 2019. Built on indigenous traditions of data gathering to create, disseminate and put into healing on gender, sexual violence against indigenous people and MMIWG, missing murdered indigenous women and girls.
Theda has been a leading authority on indigenous culture, cultural resilience, internationally, in Canada, the lower 48, Alaska, Australia and New Zealand, on proactive healing from historical trauma, posttraumatic growth, mental health healing and sobriety/recovery/adult children of alcoholics. She is cofounder and cowriter of the GONAC, gather of Native Americans curriculum, Theda is a [speaking foreign language] society member, which translates to crazy dog and [speaking foreign language] owner of standup headdress, Blackfoot women society.
She sun danced with the late Buster Yellow kidneys bundle for 10 years. In 2013, the red nation’s film festival honored Theda with a humanitarian award for her lifetime of healing work with tribes and with a red nation statue wet for ette short called why the women in my family don’t drink whiskey. That is free sp on YouTube. She’s been appointed unanimously to the Board of Trustees for the Blackfoot community college for 2014 through 2017. She is currently certifying healthy relationship trainers for native wellness institute, which is a curriculum identified as best practice from ANA, administration for Native Americans.
And on a personal note, I want to let you all know that I had the blessing and privilege of meeting Theda in September of 2019. And one of the native wellness institute’s four-day trainings. I’ve learned so much from her. We have become sisters, we have become friends and confidants, and I’m just so blessed to present her to all of you today. Thank you, Theda.
07:29 - >> Cyber hug, cyber hug. Welcome. In my language, I’ll translate, means my spirit is very, very happy to meet your spirit. Nixicoa and that means everyone in the universe, the stars, the planets, down to where we are on planet earth, so oki nixicoa. My name is [speaking foreign language [.
08:05 - It’s rare for women to get – I have a firstblackfoot name, but it’s rare for a woman to get a second one because it’s usually based on coux or a dream. So I had a dream in early 2017 and I was sitting with one of my elders, Roger Prairie Chicken and Charlene Prairie Chicken, and she’s the only woman in the world that makes the woman’s standup headdress. And I told them about a dream, and I’ll just – I’ll share it with you, because I want you to do the same as I am doing, so that we can all get to know each other.
I had this dream, my humor is – one of my favorite holidays in America is Halloween. And I – since a child, I just love Halloween, and so in the – I don’t know, around 2000 or so, I got a Bigfoot outfit, a big old Harry bigfoot outfit. And I would put it on on Halloween and I would go up in the mountains and have my sister make videos.
08:58 - [Laughter] So we went out, and the first video went viral. You can look on Facebook, as big foot. So in my dream – and this also, we’ll talk about what are rights of passage. In my dream, I had a wolf outfit and the body of the wolf, I put it on my legs, I pulled it up on my legs, I pulled it up to my body and I pulled it up to my neck. And when I looked down, I was a powerful wolf. I could feel the fierceness and the strength in my legs and I could just feel the strength, but this part of my head was human.
And when I looked over, I seen some Blackfoot men and they had the head of the wolf. And I, for a moment, as some of us women do when we look at things that we can become, I got really confused. I had hesitation, and then I just got crystal clear. I got clarity and I got fierce and I got calculative. And I knew if I took that head that those men were holding and I put it on, I would be a real wolf. That was my dream. And so my uncle, when he was listening to me, and, you know, our old Indians, he kind of goes, I’m going to rename you.
And so that’s my name. I am honored – I am honored to spend some time with you today, and I hope that – so I’m going to finish introducing myself. [Speaking foreign language] that means my mother is yellow flower woman. Betty Ann Cooper, she is 82 years old and still alive and thriving and I’m just an apple off of her tree. She’s a matriarch. And so Nina asista means my father is [Indiscernible] his prairie chicken chu dance, we always say all the names of people who raised them, and my father died of lung cancer in 2002.
He only had one lung because the TB epidemic was intrusive to my tribe. My father as a teenager got tuberculosis. A lot of our people died. And he was put in the Susan sanitarium in South Dakota. Because of his experience at boarding school, he could not speak English. He was put in as a little boy, and he still, as an older man, couldn’t speak of the tragic horrific things that happened to him. And it’s kind of like our Holocaust. He never went to the TB hospital or the doctors.
His lung atrophied inside of him. It wasn’t until he was a young father and he had to get a job in Oakland, California, where we relocated and he needed to get a physical, and they were shocked when they did the x-ray and found what they found, and they eventually had to cut in there and take out his lobe. But that’s how resilient my dad was. He was – he was so resilient. I mean, and our people are so resilient. You know, they do all these things to try of genocide us and do all these things, and we’re still here.
So it’s an honor. We’re supposed to – so one more [speaking foreign language] my grandparents are Sam New Breast, Sr. , who was born in 1900. His wife is [speaking foreign language] who was the midwife on this Blackfeet reservation in Montana, she delivered all of the babies until 1955. The last baby she delivered was a man named Snake Comes at Night, and then they made our women go to the Indian house service hospital to have babies. So my other grandmother’s [Indiscernible] and in our language, we’re trying to find what that means still.
And her husband was – and it’s a beautiful thing, was a white man, that his family came over to Ellison Island and he ran away from them as a teenager to live with the Indians.
14:35 - So grandpa came over here, snagged grandma, and made my mom. And so I just wanted to do some introduction. I’m really happy to be with you guys because I just celebrated 33 years clean and sober, and then I just celebrated my belly button birthday of 65 years old. And I guess, you know, it’s been about five decades I’ve been working with native women healing, with indigenous women healing, with BIPOC women healing. And so I wanted to come to you today to speak of – through story, I’ve been – I guess my style of teaching is through story.
And we were just having such a great dialogue, I just love – I understand we have, you know, 128 people joining us, we’ve Gotze got Seattle Indian health board, we’ve got Collets, we’ve got California tribes. I saw the list, I just go, these are the peeps, these are the peeps. So it an honor to be with you today. So, you know, Patricia and I, we were praying at the ocean a few years back and because of that prayer, I wanted to share what I call a successful story about sexual assault.
And I hope that, you know, through the story – so I have been working with girls and women and families for some time, four decades. I was trying to think – God, my first memory is around being, like, 12 years old and being with my friend who was also 12 years old and her stepfather had been perpetrating her, molesting her. And when we told her mother, her mother didn’t believe her and her mother told her to stop talking about it, and her mother told her not – not to say that anymore.
But I was her friend, and so what I would do is spend the night at her house all the time so he would not come into her bedroom.
17:09 - And I remember just getting – I remember being protective and I remember being scared, I remember just wanting help, but this is what I did, and so I’m just sharing – this is what a 12-year-old’s solution was. I was up in the bedroom and this stepfather would go golfing, and, you know, he would wear those loud vibrant pants, and they were – they were red, they were red golf pants on. And I had to go downstairs. And when I went by him, he brushed me and he took his hand and he felt up in between and he felt up towards my vagina.
And as soon as he did that I took him and I shoved him and I was strong, I’m 5’9”-inch, I’m strong, I’m an athlete, and I threw him down the stairs. And when I went down, I went down and I grabbed him at the bottom of the stairs and I used profanity, I don’t – I don’t use profanity now. It’s not becoming and I – and I just told him, if you – if you ever touch me like that again, I’m going to hurt you. And if you ever touch my friend again I’m going to hurt you and I let him go.
And so he never – he never touched her again after that. And I’m saying that with my heart is beating, my heart is beating because I know all of you, all of you, you work in this, you live this every day. You live this every day, so I want to thank you. But I guess that story comes to me because that’s how long I’ve been doing this work, you know. I didn’t – I didn’t have a paid job, I didn’t get per diem, I didn’t get travel money, but that’s – and then I remember saying in my mind, “Wow.
We just have to learn to use our voice. “ We just have to learn to protect little girls. We just have to learn to protect little boys. We just have to learn, we just have to, as a community, make safety nets around all of these little girls and these little boys. And we also have to believe them when they come and tell us. We have to validate them when they come and tell us. And so I wanted to – so that’s, I guess, when I signed up to be a helper. I’m just a conduit, I’m a helper. I’m not trying to write a book, I’m not trying to get a Ph.
D. , I’m not trying to get a Samsogram, I’m just a helper. And so – but I have – you know, my clinical work is with pregnant addicts. I was privileged in California to work on the first labeling of alcohol in 19 – early 80s, 1984. I’ve been a probation officer, I’ve been a social worker, I’ve been – it’s so many – I don’t even want to list all the jobs, but today, I come before you from Native Wellness Institute, and our mission is just to keep the teaching of our ancestors alive. So I wanted to share that story around the success – this happened over 10 years ago.
And I had been sundancing with a sister. And sundancing – and every tribe is a little bit different. And we have 574 tribes – isn’t that cool? 574 sovereign tribes. Beb Holland is from one of those tribes and Deb Holland is the head of the department of the interior now. So this sister, she came to me and she said, Theda, could I come see you? And so I invited her on up. You know, I live way up in the mountains on a lake out of glacier Park, and when she came, you know, I just – I just said, make yourself at home.
There’s food in the refrigerator, there’s the bathroom. We can go for walks, but – because I’m a recovering codependent, I don’t try to people please all the time. So I just said, you’re welcome. Come stay. And when she was leaving on the third day, I asked her, I said, sister, how come you wanted to come see me? And she goes, I was waiting for you to ask. And she said, you know, I just wanted to thank you for all your prayers and all – she said, you know, this sundance gave me healing.
She said when I – when I was a little girl I was raped several times and I never told anyone. I kept it a secret. And she said, but through that sundance, I was able to pray, I was able to talk about it, I was able to heal. And she said, and one of my symptoms, because I kept everything inside, is she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, where her hands were being crippled up. And she said – and she said, and probably, you know, my heart or my spirit was being crippled up. But she said, I wanted to thank you because through that sundance – and she took her hand and I eelz always remember, she said, look at my hand now.
And it was so graceful, it was – and she said, I don’t feel any pain right now. She said, when I did my – you know, when I did my healing work, I got mobility in my hands again. And she said, and I just wanted to thank you. And so I was – I woke up this morning because I was saying my prayers, you know, I say my prayers, I go for a long walk in the mountains here, getting ready to – so I could be clear headed, and it kind of crazy as you get older, I was telling mom, I was like, Mom, when do you start to forget? She’s 82, I’m 65.
I go, Mom, when do you start to forget? And you know what she said to me? She said it’s okay if you forget. You remembered long enough. So this story that I just shared with you currently in 2021, the same woman with mobility in her hands and doing healing, guess what she’s doing now? She’s the tribal judge. The families come before her. You know, the husbands, the wives, the children, the families come before her and she said what she tries in each and every case, is she tries to have a compassionate heart.
And so I – so I think I’ll start with that compassion. You know, when those of you, you know, raise your hand if you’ve been doing this more than – you can raise it in the chat if you’ve been doing this more than 15 years, or just raise your hand. Exactly. Exactly. So this compassion that we have, I want to speak to that and I want to speak to how we keep our compassion. How we keep our clarity, how we keep our self-care. I – because when I was younger and I had the passion, I would burn out about every three years.
And I remember my burnouts because I didn’t want to get out of bed because, oh, gosh, I wasn’t ready to face what was at work. I was snippy, they call it bitchy. I was snippy with my family, I was – you know, there was all of these signs, I was eating all this nurture food, I’d gain weight, there was all of these things. And I finally got – and I’m not perfect, I’m just describing to you, I was at a point where I heard some magic words. And the magic words I heard was, you can’t give away what you don’t have.
And the magic words I heard is you can only take people as far as you have gone. And so those were magic words. And so I became very selfish with my self-care. And my colleagues that I work with, you know, I would always say, I’ve got to be in bed by 10 with my book.
27:03 - You guys can keep on going. I mean, I would – because I’ve got to get this many hours of sleep. I’m not going to be sleep deprived because my compassion is low if I’m sleep deprived, you know. So I would – and just self-care around doing nurturing things for yourself. So one of the things that I would just – I did my first in-person mask-to-mask in Wyoming, and I experienced something of self-care they want you all to think of because of this compassion. And the thing that I experienced was they have on a routine basis for two and a half years with this treatment program and their healthcare facility, they bring in a trusted acupuncturist.
And since they’ve had this person come in, they have people off – getting them off of what they call pain pills. But they also have the acupuncturist come for mental health. And so it was such a pleasure, it was just a couple of weeks ago and I was working and they said, do you want to see the acupuncturist. And I go, yeah, yeah, I love self-care. I’m going to do this. And so there was just this long line of Indian people who, you know, come and see her. And usually, you know, she’ll needle you and it’s like 20 minutes, but if you need it longer.
And so when she came to me and it’s just like – this is like you, all of you working 59 weeks in a pandemic, remember, that’s why we have to be more jebt l, more forgiving to ourselves. So when she came to me, you know, and I’m 65 years old, you know, I’m just – I told her, I don’t have any physical pain, but what I have is I have emotional pain of stories that I have heard and stories that I sat with and that I was present with, and I think I’m wearing them on my body. I need help with my emotional compassion.
So I just – I wanted to share this with you because this never happened before. You know, that soft spot on the baby’s head, you know, and where most – all of us mothers and grandmas and matriarchs and sisters, that soft spot on the baby, we’re always protective of that baby. And by the way, when babies have that soft spot, they’re more open to God. They’re more open to the spirit, they’re called what is peer. And that spirit can come down. And that’s while you’ll see children, they can see the on scene, they can see things.
But this a acupuncturist, the first thing she did was take the needles – and they don’t hurt if you haven’t tried it. She put the needles around that soft spot and that blew me away. And then she put a needle in the third eye, and then there’s five points in the ear, and when she put in the one for the lung, I just went [coughed] and it was like a visceral body, it was that – that needle, I needed to have that needle release what I was carrying in my lungs. And that’s grief and loss.
And I’m – I can feel the benefits of it still. And that’s why I’m – I’m asking you to think about your compassion and how – you know, it’s like your compassion gauge. Like if it’s low, it’s like having gas. You know, if it’s half full, or if you have a lot to give. And that’s this webinar. This is so cool, because, like, we’re going to do, what, 10 of these, you know, and there’s just all of us on here and we have all these resources. So sovereign body’s institute has a toolkit. Patricia’s going to put that in the chat, they have a toolkit, I think it’s 201 pages, it’s working with communities, working with missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in true spirit.
We’re going to put that there. 10 years ago there weren’t these resources. We have all of these beautiful compassionate workers now, including you. So I want you to think about that gauge. And when you’re thinking about that gauge, think about taking recess. You know, like when we were children, like we all loved to go out to recess. So do your work, but think – you know, even on Zoom, we’re finding that, you know, three hours of Zoom, three and a half, that’s too much Zoom fatigue. So you’ve got to take recess.
32:14 - But I wanted to share with you, I experimented, I took a two-week road trip, only to people who had two shots, and I have two shots. And that’s – it’s okay to just go up to someone and say, do you have two shots? Because if they have two shots and you have two shots, you get to hug. It was – I mean, you got two shots, I got two shots.
32:45 - Then we hugged. And then the hugs, hold them longer. Hold them another 20 seconds. Feel their spirit, even if – you know, whoever you’re working with, hug them and that’s where we are. We’re in a compassionate celebration because now we can hug people, now we can start to plan things, like, you know, we’re having this webinar on a social platform – you know, and now we’re going to be able to – just think forward to that.
33:21 - So I wanted to – so think of those, that recess. And probably your mind is already, you know – we used to call those vacations. And it – but even if it’s one day where you don’t call in sick, you call in – you call in well. You say, ooh, I’m calling in well today. I’m going to stay in my pajamas. I’m going to make my favorite nurture food. I’m going to hug up the people in my bubble and I’m not going to do no work. I’m not even going to look at my e-mails. That’s recess. That’s recess.
And so I want you to think about planning your recess. You know, work real hard, because when you come back, you have clarity. You have insight and you have more to give to everybody that you’re involved with. So let’s – you know, there’s law enforcement, there’s academia, there’s our outside allies, there’s grassroots activism, there’s legislation, there’s healing work. And so I wanted to share with you, it’s not that Native Wellness Institute, we’re at a place where we kind of know some things.
34:59 - And so I wanted to share with you, and we’ll start with the grassroots activism. And with missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, transgender, two spirit, you know, I began to think how effective these past, gosh, especially six or seven years. And then because of the me, too campaign, the past four years, in which we have just blossomed into healing. But I wanted to speak about some successful grassroots activism. And for those of you – I can see, all of you wearing red, I mean, these shirts – everybody hold up your shirt.
Everybody’s got red – yeah, everybody hold up your shirt. Look, not to be forgotten, you know, this is – this is a bunch of Indian women in Nevada, just silk screened all these and they just went out and, you know, how some people go around with the little carts selling tamales, they just went around with a little cart and had these shirts. And if you couldn’t afford it, they gave it to you. Like, you know, but if you could donate, they took the donation. And I just thought, oh, you know what? That raised the hair on my arms.
That raised the hair on my arms. And so that is – that grassroots activism. I think we’re – we could brainstorm and that’s just go out into the community, just – and so those of you – those of you all wearing this, this mask – this mask, wearing it every day, I took my first plane ride and I wore this mask. And you know what was the coolest thing? Is people would look at me and they’d go, like right on. People would go right on. One young man ran after me because, you know, I guess my Pocahontas braids or whatever, he wanted to – and you know what? He wanted to talk and I had a moment and so I stopped and he said, I noticed you’re missing and murdered mask.
Can I talk to you about that? We had a couple minute conversation and in that two minutes, you – an advocate is born. In that reciprocation, an advocate for our movement that will help with healing intervention of sexual assault is born. And so I – those, you know, make your masks, you can double mask, and we’re still wearing masks. I still have two shots, but I wore my mask everywhere. It’s like we’re conditioned. Everyone’s got their lie sol, you know, instead of, you know, hello. Hello.
Here’s some hand sanitizer. We’re so – our – I don’t know, our world is so beautiful because you know what it’s based on is love. And what Patricia – God, that poem, we’ll have to give that to all of our listeners on this webinar, the love, the unconditional love and the ability to love, that goes back to your compassion. It goes back to the self-care, but grassroots activism, the bottom, the foundational piece of it, is this unconditional love. One of the successes that I’ve seen on several reservations is they’re reagaining to take young girls, five years old, six years old, 14 years old, 15 years old, and they teach them some type of self-defense.
And when they do that – think about what you’re looking for in grassroots activism is teaching confidence in little girls, confidence in women. We had – one of our successes that we just loved here was we had a boxing club. Because for decades, it’s athleticism boxers, they were mainly men, they were male, and then the past five years they started to open it up to little girls.
39:40 - And I mean, like seven-year-old girls, you know, sophomore in high school girls, and now it’s a discipline. They have – they have formed these young girls and low body weight champions, but the thing is is what happened is the medicine is self-esteem. The medicine is confidence. So think in your grassroots activism, anything that raises the self-esteem and raises the confidence in girls. And it’s because they will always have a voice. The confidence and the self-esteem, they will always articulate what is happening inside of them.
They will always build, they will articulate and make friendships. And all of us working on here, we’re all – we’re looking for solutions. We know the disparities. You know, – so I’m going to keep on, I’m one of those Indians that can go on and on and on, but I’m going to keep in the theme of grassroots activism. I’m part of the Canadian missing and murdered effort, and in Canada, since 2004 across the providence, they have providence like Ontario, like Alberta, like British Columbia, like we have states.
They have always had candle light vigils. The candlelight vigils and they carry the pictures and they carry the names of the missing and murdered women. And so the next activism that I wanted to share with you, and it’s a healing one, is we met in Alberta. She’s a grandma, and she beads. This is a fully beaded native woman, the back of her, and it has a really good story. And in it, you can grab the lessons from it, is this grandma she said her grandmother named Sally Provost, was murdered in 1980.
And when that happened, it was so horrific and there was so much shame, anxiety and grief, the family had the funeral and they didn’t talk about it. They didn’t tell their story. And it was just a couple years ago that we invited her to come and tell the story of her grandma being murdered. And once she told that story, she realized that she hasn’t – she can never forget her. And so she started beading these. And now she beads them br you can – they’re like little pins. This is another one that she just gave me.
This one’s really cute. And then her cousins and her family are beading them. And she said it’s been – she said they’ve gotten so close now, all the cousins, all the sisters, altogether. And she started beading them for her commipoise mix. I’m part of a standup women’s headdress society. And so we gather at Mother’s Day and we gather on May 5th – like it’s May 5th today. It’s like woohoo! I was just like, oh, my God! Look at all this awareness, look at all this positive, proactive, productive energy going out.
You know, this is just going out and we’re healing.
44:07 - But every time – the first time we had the gathering, she beaded one for every one of the ones that had a standup headdress and gave them to us. And, you know, I think about – I’m just grabbing things, because this grassroots activism, I love telling success stories. In San Francisco at the women’s march in 2019 there was 10,000 women marching on the behalf of, you know, the January 20th. And there is a women’s drum group called the Red Lightning Sisterhood Drum Group. And this is one of their – they all wore one of these scarves.
This is a grassroots effort. And they asked them to be at the beginning of the march. They had all of their signs, they had all of their drums and Aurora, if you’re listening, you know, Michelle Moss, Janet King was there, I just could go on and on. Michelle Antone, I think some of the Sacramento snack people got down there, they were at the head of that march of 10,000 women, diverse women, women of color, allies, altogether, and they were singing their strong women’s song. And I just want to – that magic, that energy, that’s the grassroots activism.
And so I really think – and Patricia, you know, I look at Patricia, you know, couldn’t you just see us all, everywhere we’re at when we can gather again, we have our little cart. And we’re just rolling around, here’s a toolkit from SBI, here’s a scarf from San Francisco, okay, here’s a mask. I mean, it’s that grassroots, that grassroots where your grandmas come out and help, that’s how we create awareness, and that’s where we tell the resources, and we just guide these women to the safety nets and to the resources.
So I wanted you to – of course, you know I was raised grassroots. You know, my mom – I must – I have to speak about my mom. She was – in the United States, they have mother of the year and they choose a mother from each state. And in 2019, my mother was mother of the year for Montana. And it started in 1935, Eleanor Roosevelt started it. And they would pick from each state and they would go to Washington, D. C. and address Congress. But the year 2019 was one of the first years that they had tribal women, indigenous women, women of BIPOC, women of color, maroons, you know, before that, they would have elite women, of higher, you know, economic status, and they were all white.
But I just want to say, you know, when Mom went to Washington, D. C. and addressed Congress, they got three minutes. And the title of their speech was this is your mother talking.
47:15 - [Laughter] And, you know, of course, my mother, you know, she timed it down to the three minutes and she talked of women, of women being sacred life givers. She talked about missing and murdered, and why we mattered. She talked about those hurt by violence, those hurt by sexual assault. She flipped the coin and she started talking about the grassroots activism and how those efforts need to be funded and how those efforts need to be put forward. And so I wanted to – but my mother – when we were getting her speech together, they needed a bio, and I’m her biological daughter.
I’m her oldest child. And so my mom said we have to name all my adopted children. My mother can name all 70 of her adopted children. And she named – she made a list of them. And so in your compassion, those of you on this webinar, think about all those that you have adopted, name them. Check on them. Acknowledge them, celebrate them because I think in our movement, we have to think the unity of the larger group, the unity of the larger family. For indigenous, it – we’re not nuclear, we’re not just a couple of parents with some grandparents and a child.
We’re many facetted, and that’s – utilize that, that grassroots activism.
49:26 - So on that last, I have to tell you a story because, you know, when I – when grandma – when my mother addressed our tribal council, we have nine members, and they – they’re our sovereign nation. They make the big decisions. Like we decided to close for these – during the pandemic, we practiced our sovereignty and kept out tourists because of our sovereignty. And when my mother – she wanted to go say her mother of the year speech to the nine councilman and get their endorsement.
Smart move. So she dressed in her standup headdress and she dressed in her Indian clothes, her elk tooth and when it was her time to speak, she got up to the podium and this is what she said. She said, what an honor, all nine of you, did you know I knew all of your parents and I knew all of your grandparents? She trumped them. It was like, I knew your parents, I snow all of your grandparents. She didn’t get up there with degrees or certification, she just – and then it was so cool afterwards because here you have this leadership, they all wanted to take a selfie with her.
And then they all wanted to take a portrait with her, so we put her in the middle and we put our elected leaders, you know, and hats off to – say good thing about your elected leaders. Acknowledge your elected leaders. Give them suggestions. The complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. Kindness softens. Criticism hardens. Kindness softens. Criticism hardens. So just, you know, help your leadership. But that was, like – that’s like a move. So this grassroots activism, you guys, you’re doing it.
But let’s do it harder and stronger. Harder and stronger. I was just thinking, we need to have a Deb Holland photo, you know, that we all wear. All red, of course, you know, and send her one and then bring it on, you know, because that activism is so powerful. And I’ll just make a note here, because my heart is tender. On – we have a million and a half acres and we’re currently looking for a three-year-old girl named Arden Pepian, missing since April 22nd. And we’re looking for a young man named Leo Wagner.
And this activism has went into effect here, there’s a command center less than a half mile from my house where people are providing three meals and searchers are walking shoulder to shoulder. I think that’s happening because four years ago is when we lost Ashley Lauren Heavy Winter and it’s May 5th, and our community has just hunkered down and they’re looking. And we don’t know the answers yet, but the fact that the tears, the feeding of each other, the visiting with each other, the – and I feel really protected.
I mean, I had to go through a police barricade because they’re not letting anyone in this territory to destroy any evidence. But in the meantime, everybody, the sheriff, everybody – the hot shot fireworkers, the fish and wildlife and then local neighbors are all coming to my door and just saying, are you okay? And I’m just going, I’m okay. Now that – and then I’ll say, you got two shots. You got two shots? Come here. And I just grab them and thank them, you know. So be thinking about that.
So I wanted to talk about – a little bit – I’m going to shift from that to the healing work. And the healing work is what – the business that Native Wellness Institute is in, so I’m going to frame it with – Patricia and I and our gang, before we started here, we were talking about I had a mentor that always told me whatever community you’re going into, the first question you should ask is what is your average life expectancy? So in the United States, I think it’s around 78. It might have changed a little bit for COVID.
So when you hear what it is, like on my reservation, the average life expectancy is 54. In the neighboring, fort Balnap reservation, the average life expectancy is 61 and 52 for males. And if you drop down to Wind River Reservation, because we’re in Montana, we’re regional. Wind River Reservation, the average life expectancy is 52. So I just wanted to – with tribe, because we have a lot of tribal people on board here, and then in all of your communities, you know, I want to thank Patricia and them for having not only the Spanish interpreters, the – you know, when we grew up – I grew up in Oakland, so, you know, it was – back then it was Latino, Chicano and then I just look at how the beautiful terms that we have now where we can self-identify.
But we have the interpretation. I want to thank the sister who’s doing what I call – you know, people that can’t hear are actually more magic because the other senses become extreme. And they’re more spiritually grounded. So I want – so in this healing work, if you will for a moment in Blackfoot, but this is in the human being race, if you could hold your hand in a circle. If everyone – you know, because we have the circle of life, we have the medicine wheel. But if you could hold your hand in a circle and where your left thumb is is, you know, when you’re born.
And coming up your left thumb to your index finger is when you’re 25 years old. And at the top where your two long fingers connect, that’s when you’re 50 years old. And when you swing around the circle, 75 and 100. And think of this because in the healing work, there’s rites of passage. And 100 years, the – that’s why we have the 100 willow sweats, that’s why 100 is a number, it’s – that’s usually how long this physical body’s going to last. You live forever, you’re always here.
We are always here, but this physical body, guess what? It has an expiration date. And so – and so this healing work – so a question we can ask ourselves for our own compassion and self-care and a question we can ask the families that we’re working with is how long are you planning on living? You know, just like start there. And if it causes someone to say, okay, well, my grandparents lived to 66, my mother lived to… and then you can start there with the healing work. So what stuff has happened, traumatic stuff, that we need to heal with so that we live longer? And so I want to – in framing that, so one of – think about all of – and I’m going to switch it to little girls, because when little girls are born within that first three years, and especially that first five years, you have about 80% of what that little girl is going to be or what she’s going to become.
Am I right? Raise your hand if you kind of – yeah, they learn it all in that first… so think about that you do all of the rituals and all those ceremonies. We always in our tribe, our first rite of passage is getting your Indian name. And other rights of passage is when baby first gets off of nursing, you know, because nursing – breastfeeding is the most important, but a rite of passage is when they eat their first solid food. When they take their first step and can walk on their own, when their first word, the word that comes from their mouth or the first – when they make their first sentence, that is a rite of passage.
59:32 - And you can imagine all the other rites of passage. And all of those rites of passage in this healing work, think for yourself and those you’re working with, just helps them spiritually grow. They’re – it’s about spiritual – it’s about emotional IQ, which is more important in our work than an intellectual IQ. So this emotional work – and so since it’s – I want to talk about girls and women. And since we’re on here, one of the most precious miraculous beautiful rites of passage for women, and it happens around here at the top, is when you have your last bleed, and that’s the ending of your menstrual cycle.
And you go 12 months around and in that 12 months, you’re in that rite of passage. And what’s beautiful about that rite of passage is as a woman, you reflect all of your years – you reflect how – like how we’ve done in this pandemic, we’ve done a reflection of our lives, we’ve had time to pause and have recess and reflection. And most women will reflect on the decisions that they made during that – in their life so far. And you’ll notice that you’ll become aware of the decisions that you made based on hormone, not your true authentic real self.
And sometimes we make some pretty crazy decisions based on hormones, right? We’re not going to – like he was looking really good, you know. I’m a hetero, so that’s – he was looking really good so I had five kids with him. No. And this one over here was looking pretty good, so I had another five kids with him. No. So I just in humor, we make decisions that are true, authentic self would not true. So I wanted just to think about that in the healing work. So for yourself or those you’re working with is – because once you enter into that rite of passage, there’s a beautiful – to me it’s a miracle, you start to look at the things that really matter to you that make you who you are.
And it’s simple things like just eating the things that you like to eat. And I know that’s still one with me, because I’m the oldest child, I had to cook all the meals for the family. I had to go shopping with the food stamps and make that last for two weeks so we still had food at the end of the two weeks. And so now for me, it’s eating what I like to eat. That’s self. It’s listening to music that you like, right? Not what others like. And , you know, this is something you can do, women, okay? Is if they’re watching something on TV and you don’t want to watch it, get your own damn television.
And watch what you want to watch. I – you know, I always say, I don’t like it when women have to – like if they don’t like football, they’re sitting there watching what he wants to watch and they’re making all the food, and then I just say, get your – you know, watch what you want to watch. Eat what you want to watch, read what you want to read. Experience. We’re going to go back to this recess, this healing work, you know. So in this healing work, especially during the pandemic, think about those – the structure of halt, not to be hungry, not to be lonely, not to be tired, hungry, lonely, tired… those kind of boundaries. And I guess it’s about talking about self-care boundaries while we’re working together. And one of – one of the healing self-care boundaries is to make friends with your coworkers. And I think about this, Patricia, about how over the years you and I have become friends because we can vent with each other. And I – that role of finding someone that you can just – am I back on? I apologize. There was a little bit of a glitch. Finding someone who is your safety net in – with your coworkers.
It’s building a team where, you know, like when you’ve gone through something during the day, there should always be a debriefing. There should always – you know, I have one of my clinical friends that I’m – that I just call her and I say, hey, can event? And we get on the horn together and I just say I need to purge this out because I don’t want to carry it anymore. I don’t want to carry it anymore.
65:37 - And so this healing work for us is creating those safety nets where we renew, where we – and, you know, it’s springtime. And, you know, in those rites of passage like for the tribes right now, a lot of our bundles, our beaver bundles, people are getting ready for sundance, we’re getting – think about like between now and June 20th, because recreating self-care around the equinox and the solstice, those are universal times in which you can do your ceremonies with your community, but also recreate, because I was just thinking, like right now I did this two-week road trip, but June 20th, I want to celebrate that I made it through the pandemic.
Because there was a point – there was a point which all of our family had to start talking about what happened if we died of COVID, what was the plan? And we had some serious conversations, some tearful conversations. And so that – so think about the celebration that we’re alive, the celebration that here we are, we haven’t stopped doing the work. Here we are, we’re on this webinar. Here we are, and it’s springtime. There’s actually – the sun is coming out, the buds are starting to grow.
One of the – my mother, when I came home, she has a tree out there, it’s only about this big, and she said, that’s an evergreen tree. I want you to go plant it. But, you know, I started getting tears because she’s been doing those kinds of things because I know she wants – she gave me that tree and I need to go plant it because when my mom dies, I will always look at that tree and know that my mother gave me that tree. And that tree lives on. And so think about that healing – again, this is under the healing work, that your healing, and so I was just thinking, wouldn’t it be cool, like, you know how – you know how us as women, we all get excited.
It might be at Walmart or Safeway or somewhere when you see all the hanging plants or all the tomato plants? Try this. Just get a couple extra and go around to your neighbors and say, I was just thinking of you today and how important you are to me. And give it to them. And say – and when you plant it, could you say a little prayer for our missing and murdered indigenous women and girls when you plant it? And maybe tie a little red ribbon on it, you know. I mean, you know, there’s – that is that healing work.
I was – when I was in Wyoming, one of my friends from my belly button birthday gave me a big sign that says hate does not live here. And it had all the symbols, all the heart symbols for two spirits, transgender, and it had all of – it’s all the hearts. And so I’ve got it plastered in my window. I’m not going to grab it. But I thought what a thoughtful gift. And she had it in front of her house. And then I – so I was just thinking, how do I get more of those? [Laughter] How do I get more of those.
So I was like, you know, because I believe Christmas is every day. I was like, how do I get more of those and just gift those out. Some more of the healing work. So I wanted to, again, think about those rites of passage. And planning for your rite of passage that you made it through the pandemic. Planning for that celebratoriry time with your family. You know, and you might not be getting together until July 4th, you might not be getting together until memorial weekend or it might not be until Labor Day, but plan a being alive with your family and at the same time have the memorial for those that we lost.
And, you know, Patricia and I, we’ve had this discussion about that the grief is as big as the loss. And I know in our tribe, we lost 48, and I grew up with all of them. I knew all of them. And we, because of COVID, we haven’t had memorials, so I was – I was thinking, it’s going to be a good thing when we can all just memorialize them. So when you’re doing that, and this is – this has to do with the healing work, is a good way to think of it is the person that you lost, what was their legacy? What did they do that is just their legacy? And so I was thinking of aunts and uncles that I lost, and I was thinking of their sayings.
So one of my uncles that was lost, he worked in the emergency room for 29 years straight, but he always had this sense of humor. And so he’d always see someone and he’d say, hey, you, you dropped your pocket. And inevitably the person would turn around and – and it was – you know, you dropped your pocket? You know, they’d look around and then he’d laugh. That was – so that’s his legacy.
71:53 - So just during this pandemic I started telling people, hey you, you dropped your pocket. That is honoring the legacy. He will never be – and they’ll go, oh, I know where you got that from your Uncle Gerald. And… [audio dropped.
71:55 - >> You cut out. >> I saw that. There’s someone calling and I don’t want to go – so that legacy. And so in our – and Patricia, you know, do you want to comment on anything at this point? >> I would just like to say, yes, because there’s a comment in the chat from Tara who says love Theda’s laugh so much. And we – you and I have talked about this topic about how coming from our communities, a sense of humor is critical and how in the darkest, most tough times, we will crack each other up.
And laughing is like – belly laughing is like crying. And so my brother and sister-in-law, who passed away from COVID-19 on July 11th, when I saw Tara’s post saying love Theda’s laugh so much, I thought of my brother’s laugh, because he had this really gregarious, however you say the word, huge laugh and huge sense of humor, and he loved to tease.
73:33 - And like your friend that you just said, you dropped your pocket. Yeah, he would – yeah, that was him. And it’s beautiful and it’s important – thank you Michelle, to remember them and remember the love and the joy. And we’re still here. Here we are standing. Here we are in the movement to end gender-based violence. The work is huge. Our ancestors are hear with us, I feel them. And we’re connecting. You know, we’re connecting the dots of humanity, each other. And I just thank you so much, Theda.
We’ve got about 14 minutes left, just an FYI. >> Okay. So then maybe what I’ll give a shoutout to your connections magazine. Your Connections journal, because Patricia asked the native wildness institute so I wrote the article. But I wanted to give you some diagram. I hope that you read it. Okay, CDC – okay, so – we need to help CDC. CDC, from 1980 to 2018 took 800 and some best practices to stop violence. And they swished it down to 53 best practices to prevent violence. And when they swished it down to 53, they recognized that they didn’t include tribes or Alaskan natives.
So they approached National Indian Health Board and they wanted to gather from all of those tribes, the 574 tribes, so they came to NWI and they said we want Theda to facilitate it. And this – so our first facilitation, and we didn’t know, because we were on Zoom, we went all day from 8:00 to 5:00 on Zoom because we didn’t know no better. We didn’t know no better. But we met all through April, May, June and we got from all of the tribes the root causes of violence.
76:01 - And also the resiliency – so that is outlined in your Connections magazine. I wanted to – and so that effort also CDC has written a journal – her name is Delight Sodder and Laura at CDC, and they asked me to coauthor the indigenous knowledge part. And this is what was cool, you know. When you write stuff like that and that’s not my bag, but I can do it, they said you only get 250 words. So I negotiated for 350 words. So it’s also in that article. And – but this is the cool part is as we were writing it and I wrote rites of passage, some of the stuff that I’m sharing with you, this indigenous knowledge that I got from migrate great grandmas is I said to them, I don’t want you to mess with it, changing the words or making it sound like – besides, I don’t think there’s anyone at CDC who knows more indij nows knowledge than I do.
So don’t – I don’t want none of your experts messing with my 350 words. You know what? They just listened and they printed it. So that’s, again, find your voice.
77:24 - I started out, find your voice. Because, God, I just – I look forward to when we can all sit in a circle and put a smudge in the middle, when we can all wade into the water and sing some songs to the water. I just cannot wait until I see all of you again and we can sit and visit, you know, with something good to eat and a hot cup of tea or a good cup of coffee. And I think that, you know, in these remaining minutes, think about the indigenous knowledge is still there. So what that requires us to do is during our recess, this recess idea, just go sit with a day or two with the oldest person in your family.
Just go bring them meat or bring them salmon or bring them a tamale, a good tamale, okay? Bring them some good food and listen to their stories. That’s why we have two ears and one mouth. We’re in a stage where the greatest thing that we can do is be present and listen to someone’s story. And then share a little of our story. You know, I just – I can’t overemphasize – and you guys are doing that, you know, and I – it’s been an honor that you asked me to come and to start this kickoff keynote for all the efforts that you’re going to be doing over the next couple of months, and the year.
So in the remaining time, think of it, you know, I was – like what do I want to do until December 31st, 2021? And the first thing that came up was that June 20th, the solstice and the equinox, I want to have a lot of celebration and just, like, simple celebration. Like sleep hygiene being good. Yay! I leapt every night, you know. I want to – this Mother’s Day, and maybe that’s a good place for us, do something special May 9th for yourself as a mother. Do something special for, if you still have your mother, and if your mother has passed on, have a celebration anyway.
Make her favorite food, make a little plate for her, smudge that plate and put that food out so that she can come and eat with you. Make a celebration of imreur grandmothers, and if you know your great grandmas. Just make it a time, and all the – and let the little girls watch you do this celebration. If they’re walking and talking, if they’re teenagers, ask them to be part of the celebration. And I think it’s those rituals and those rites of passage, if we just uplift those, we’ll see the benefit in the years to come.
We’ll see the prevention. So I don’t know, Patricia, that’s kind of like a wind down in our language we say onya, that means “That’s it. ” So I’ll say that. Anything else you want to say before we go off, Patricia? >> I would like to add that I’m going to personally rename Mother’s Day to nurturer’s day because every human being is nurturing something, whether it’s a plant, whether it’s a fur baby, whether you’re nonbinary, transgender, we’re nurturers, that’s why we’re here. That’s – we do this.
This is what we have in common. So sentient things the trees, the plants, they’re nurturing us. I’m going to rename it to nurturing us, I hope you all celebrate yourself, have compassion with yourself. I’m just so moved every time WCSAP gets to connect with all of you. I’m so moved when WCSAP gets to be the platform to bring people in like Theda and others and the the Connections magazine, where we’re all learning, we’re all learning from one another until our last breath. And just – I’m just so grateful and I feel so blessed and just wanted to share that, you know, that it doesn’t have to, in my opinion, be a female thing, Mother’s Day.
We are nurturers. We obviously, we are nurturers, and let’s nurture ourselves. So, yeah. We’ve got six minutes, Theda.
82:42 - >> Yes. So I wanted to invite all of you to Native Wellness Institute for the past 59 weeks. I think we have 330 free power hours, and they’re focused on healing. And this week we actually had our Peru sisters come on and speak about their efforts for missing and murdered indigenous in Peru, that was Monday. And you can go to YouTube and listen to that. We have – yesterday I was on and we have sovereign bodies institute, because at Sovereign Bodies Institute, we have a staff, and they’re fantastic.
It’s kind of – you know, it’s kind of like having four Anitas now, because Anita is finishing up her Ph. D. She’s like, taking a little recess. But she can, because she has three clones. She has, like, three clones, and so think of, you know – you have to clone yourself. You have to mentor, bring them in. But check out all this week is dedicated, everybody’s wearing red, it’s missing and murdered acknowledgment, it’s healing, it’s intervention, it’s talking strategy. And so come join us.
And I guess with my remaining time, Patricia, I would ask for alliance. It’s – because the Europeans wants us to compete. And I think that when we start to ally and we start to get along we’re not as stressed out. It feels good. And you can call upon each other and then they can also call up on you, it’s an interdependence that I just think is – we’re willing to do that. And I think that’s one of the lessons of the pandemic.
84:10 - >> Yes. >> we have learned to ally with each other Patricia.
84:16 - >> We’re helping each other carry the load.
84:36 - >> Exactly. We’re helping each other to carry the load. That is an incredible way. You know, and – you know how when you guys are free? I mean, are you guys like me, I carry my tension right here. I’m tiring of carrying that load. I kind of want to be, like, floating. I want to be free. I still want to do the work, but, again, remember, plan that recess. Take a recess.
85:10 - >> Thank you so much, Theda. Thank you so much. Thank you all for being here with us, and remember to check out the other keynote series that we’re going to have. They’re amazing. Humans like Theda, and I’m just really thankful that you took time out to join us, all of the participants. And we have our work cut out for us, but we are many. .