Claudia Slate on ''Lakota Women's Shelters''
From: Claudia Slate
Subject: Lakota Women's Shelters
Representatives of the Native American Women's Health Education Resource
Center were confident that their request for a zoning variance to establish
a battered woman's shelter would be granted with out any problems last fall.
What they and the Lakota people did not expect was the response of Mike
Whalen, a South Dakota deputy state's attorney, who opposed the variance
at a meeting last September, and in doing so, attacked the Native American
community as "a culture of hopelessness, godlessness, of joblessness and
lawlessness. . . .Alcoholism, social disease, child abuse and poverty
are the hallmarks of this so-called culture that you seek to promote."
The Yankton Sioux Tribe immediately called for Whalen's apology and
resignation, but he refused saying that he "did the Native American
Community a favor." South Dakota Governor George Mickelson has refused to
fire Whalen, his only comment being that the remarks were "inappropriate,"
"insensitive," and "regrettable." This is interesting, coming from the man
who declared a Century of Reconciliation to right the wrongs against Native
Americans. There is a fear among the women that the issue of the Shelter
will get overlooked in the emotions and debate of the racism issue.
On the Rosebud Reservation, the Tribal Council issued a restraining order
against the Episcopal Diocese barring takeover of the White Buffalo Calf
Women's Society, a Rosebud women's shelter. Immediately following the
hearing, Stanley Whiting, attorney for the Diocese, served an eviction
notice to the society to vacate the building owned by the Diocese.
Stories in Lakota papers in early Feb. told of the takeover of the
society's shelter by the Episcopal Foundation's newly founded
"Watchful Home." The White Buffalo Calf Woman's Society (Society)
complained at that time that the shelter was closed to them without
notice and the operations, finances, utilities and mail were taken
control of by the new Watchful Home. The story in Feb. 6, 1991 papers was
the first notice five of the seven Society board members knew about the
takeover. On Feb. 8, Antoine and Edith Matt and Tillie Black Bear, Society
Board members, got a preliminary injunction and restraining order in the
Rosebud Tribal Court against the diocese, the South Dakota Episcopal
Foundation, the Board of Directors of Watchful Home and its employees
Loretta Shelton, Donna Richards, and Leta Haukaas.
There appears to be, from the reports we have seen, considerable debate over
an IRS bill for payroll taxes that had not been paid and controversy over
the use of Lakota Sacred Pipe Spirituality by the Society. Some of the
reports indicated that the IRS bill was the catalyst for the takeover,
but research has indicated that the problems between the church and the
Society go back at least as far as August of 1985 when the church issued
an eviction notice and demanded back payment on leases. For 25 years
the only consideration had been a $1.00 per year payment. The Society has
operated the shelter since 1980. In a press conference in Sioux Falls, Lois
Antoine accused Bishop Craig Anderson of paternalism and racism. Anderson
is a member of Gov. Micke lson's Reconciliation Council. But church
backers say that the Society developed a "bad reputation" in the last
year and that some clients wouldn't go there because the shelter was a
"certain way," according to court testimony. ---