Reclaiming the Sacredness of Tribal Women: Honoring the Words of Tillie Black Bear
Known as the Grandmother of the movement to end violence against Indigenous women, Tillie Black Bear (Sicangu Lakota) was the first Indigenous woman to testify before Congress to bring awareness to the disproportionate rates of violence Indigenous women face. Tillie’s efforts have increased awareness and understanding of violence against Indigenous women, resulting in significant accomplishments at the Tribal, state, and federal levels. In honor of Tillie’s steadfast leadership and advocacy, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) has celebrated Tillie Black Bear Women Are Sacred Day each October 1 since 2018.
Our speakers use Tillie’s words and body of work to illustrate how her legacy continues to inspire the movement to end violence against Indigenous women.
About the Panelists
- Paula Julian serves as Senior Policy Specialist for NIWRC, developing its policy agenda on restoring sovereignty to increase Native women’s safety. She works with staff and partners to identify, analyze, monitor, and draft policy priorities and supporting documents, provide training and technical assistance regarding policy priority areas, engage in advocacy efforts to advance NIWRC’s policy priorities and develop partnerships to strengthen laws, policies, and responses addressing violence against Native women. Paula has worked with Alaska Native advocates to establish the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center and Native Hawaiian advocates to form the Pouhana O Na Wahine (Pillars of Women) – both organizations dedicated to addressing domestic and gender-based violence in the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian community respectively.
Paula has over 25 years of experience working on violence against women issues, especially Native women issues. Formerly, Paula was an Outreach Coordinator with Sacred Circle, worked for the Avellaka Program of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians to help develop the Tribe’s response to violence against women; and worked with the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc. to develop and provide technical assistance to tribes nationwide to strengthen tribal capacity to respond to sexual assault victims through development of a curriculum, community education, and webinar materials. Paula also was a Program Manager at the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), U.S. Department of Justice. Highlights of her time at OVW include the analysis and development of policies affirming government-to-government relations and the Federal trust responsibility for the Department and with other Federal agencies; development of the Safety for Indian Women from Sexual Assault Offenders Initiative; development and administration from 2001-2006 of the Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Grant Program; development and implementation of technical assistance and training; and management of various OVW Programs.
- Carmen O’Leary is the Director of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. She is a citizen and a resident of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, where she has gathered her experience and expertise to develop programs that serve Native women experiencing violence. Carmen is a trainer on advocacy around sexual assault and domestic violence. She is a certified trainer with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for Law Enforcement on Domestic Violence. Carmen has worked at providing insight into Tribal Codes concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, and the issuance of protection orders. In 2000, she was a consultant for the State Court Association in providing training on full faith and credit to Judges and court staff on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provision. She has worked as a social services aide in a hospital setting, as a Child Protection Worker, and as the coordinator for the Women’s Shelter for seventeen years.
- Carmen is also a Tribal Legal Lay advocate for the Cheyenne River Tribal Court and has served as a part-time magistrate for the Tribal Court. She has facilitated reeducation classes for domestic violence offenders, women’s support groups and adults molested as children. Carmen has served on the VAWA 904 Research Task Force, is the regional representative for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, where she is the Vice Chair, and is on the Sacred Heart Center board. This local program governs the women’s shelter and an adolescent program. Carmen volunteers as a Guardian Ad Litem for children in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court.
- Wendy Schlater is a dual citizen of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians and the U.S. In March 2019, Wendy was elected Vice Chairwoman for her Tribe, her third term as an elected tribal leader. Wendy also serves as Program Director of La Jolla’s Avellaka Program, addressing safety for Native women on her Reservation. In this capacity, she organized the La Jolla Native Women’s Advisory Committee to host the first annual Inter-Tribal Sexual Assault Awareness Walk in 2010, which continues today, traveling from reservation to reservation. One of Wendy’s passions is to assert and utilize tribal sovereignty to bring much-needed services to her people. Wendy is also a member of the San Diego County Sexual Assault Response Team Committee and a Tribal Subcommittee member of the Violence Against Women Act Committee. Wendy is a founding Board member of a non-profit tribal coalition, the Strong Hearted.
- Native Women’s Coalition and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, for which she currently serves as NIWRC’s Board of Directors Treasurer. NIWRC is a national tribal nonprofit dedicated to restoring tribal sovereignty to increase Native women’s safety. Throughout her career, she has advocated for Native LGBTQ/2Spirit youth and adults, tribal youth, health, education, land, environmental issues, and safety for Native women, developing innovative ways to create tribal responses and programs respective to her people’s customs and traditions.