Sacred Shawl and Youth Center Updates – Martin SD

The shelter has received funds from one of the many grants Kimmie Clausen, the Director,  has applied for and she hired additional staff bringing the total number of employees up to 7 which means shorter hours and less work for everyone.  They’ve been busy at the shelter (unfortunately) but are pleased they can provide a safe haven for women in crises, the Martin community is busy putting together a team of responders- nurses, MD’S, mental health professionals, and social workers to help people in need.  They recently set up a sweat lodge, or Inipi in Lakota, which means “to live again”, at the shelter and will be held every Thursday night for women who are current or past residents of the shelter.  This ceremony purifies and heals the body, helps the participant gain strength and power, and is a spiritual rebirth.  Kimmie would like to start a women’s support group for past clients of the shelter so they can develop a network of women that help each other with their day to day struggles.  They’ve also been doing a weekly program on KILI radio speaking about various topics that are relevant to the community.

Kimmie was disappointed that she ran out of money before work could be completed on the two rooms above the garage, she really needs the space but will now have to apply for more grants before work can resume.  She also needs to update some furnishings and flooring in the shelter as after a year of serving clients things are starting to show quite a bit of wear and tear.   The carpeting needs to be replaced with tile which would be easier to maintain, two windows are beyond repair and will need replacing, new mattresses are needed in some of the rooms despite being covered and some of the furniture is looking pretty worn.  Outdoors they need more gravel on the road leading to the shelter as it gets very muddy when it rains and they need to fence the property to help protect and contain the children.  Parents do accompany their children outside but there’s always a risk they can be grabbed by a non-custodial parent or relative.

The shelter recently learned the Four Directions clinic in Kyle, (they perform screening after a rape) has had funds amounting to $875,000 for the last 4 years that was intended to be used for a domestic abuse shelter.  Kimmie spoke to the clinic and the tribe about allowing her to use some of the money to operate the current shelter since the fund isn’t large enough to build and operate a new one.  She has asked tribal officials for their help and any amount they received could help with maintenance and upgrades they currently can’t afford.  There is funding to operate the shelter for two more years, (only bare bones necessities), that is assuming the new federal administration doesn’t cut funding as has been rumored.

Kimmie is very appreciative of everything coming in, sometimes daily, and wants to thank all of you for your continuing generosity and support.  She said bags are needed (pillowcase size) for the Four Directions Clinic  that are filled with women’s items and given to those that surrender their clothing for a rape investigation.  Also needed are diaper bags for Bright Start , emergency bags for women coming at the end of the month for formula and diapers, and bags to hold clients belongings when leaving the shelter.   We will have a Bag Project coming up in May/June to fill some of these needs, more information coming in the May blog.

The My Space Youth center hasn’t been open as much as Kimmie would have liked this winter because of staffing issues.  She prefers to have the kids at the center as some get into trouble when home alone, she has come in personally on many of the snow days for just this reason.  Thankfully she just received a $25,000 grant for two JR/SR college students (male and female) to be there when the center is open.  Kimmie wanted the staff to be old enough to be responsible but young enough to relate to the kids.  They will be doing crafts, playing games, helping with reading and homework, making snacks and supervising the computer.  The SD extension office is going to work with the center to build raised garden beds this summer and the kids are hoping to visit some of the sacred Lakota sites such as Bear Butte, Wind Cave and the Black Hills.

Youth in the community, ages 10-16, have been meeting with elders and other adults on weekends for the past few months to learn about caring and respecting their bodies physically, emotionally and spiritually.  They are learning to refrain from drug and alcohol use, about reproduction and forming healthy relationships.  Elders have been teaching the youth about Lakota culture and how some of the old ways still fit into today’s society.

Girls learned how to make beef jerky, gather turnips, sweet grass and sage.  They are making their own moccasins and beaded medicine bags which they’ll wear hidden in their bras.  Girls who’ve had their first menstrual cycle are making a ceremonial dress from gingham for Isnati Awicalowanpi   or their coming of age ceremony.  They will go into isolation for 4 days where women (mothers and female elders) will wait on them, feed them, teach them Lakota culture and give them their spiritual name.  Their name is given to them by an elder who has worked with them over the past 4 months.

Boys also learn Lakota culture from male elders, learn traditional crafts and make a Vision Quest  after which they will be given their spiritual name.  Both boys and girls will also participate in the sweat lodge or Inipi ceremony.

These spiritual coming of age ceremonies are an important part of traditional Lakota Culture and can be a life changing experience for any youth but especially for those at risk.  These ceremonies were made possible by a grant Kimmie received which covered all costs including something for the elders.

SFK members are busy working on kid’s summer clothing for the shelter, youth center, Wanblee and the Marty School students.   Please continue working on your clothing projects through April.  You can view the spreadsheet here to see our progress and what is still needed.

We can’t thank you enough for sharing your time, talents and treasures with the children of Pine Ridge and Marty Indian School.  We are so grateful to each and every one of you!

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