By Kelsey Keener
The Cedar Band of Paiutes dedicated last Saturday to an event focused on honoring women.
While the focus of the event was Native women for the morning activities, all community members were invited to take part in the afternoon programs. The event featured keynote speaker Sandy Whitehawk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and motivational speaker Tanya Blackhorse of the Ute Tribe, as well as breakout sessions focused on issues facing women of all ages. After lunch, the PITU Flute Players performed a song, followed by a closing prayer and a healing activity.
Keynote speaker Whitehawk discussed a wide range of topics focused on the question of how tribal community members can honor women. She discussed her experiences through boarding school, serving in the US Navy, addiction and abuse. For Whitehawk, acknowledging hardship is a vital part of healing.
“I’m not going to dwell on past hardships,” she said. “Yet, if we don’t acknowledge them and how to unravel them, we can’t enjoy the healing.”
She also said women have been a vital part of healing for Native communities.
“Men are still not talking about the sexual abuse that they endured in boarding school and the sexual abuse they have committed or experienced in our communities,” Whitehawk said. “It’s been the women that have stepped forward and said what we’ve experienced.”
Whitehawk used the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman to demonstrate how women are to be viewed. In the story, a beautiful women appears to two scouts in a white buckskin dress. One of the scouts understands she is sacred, the other expresses lustful thoughts and he is killed.
“That’s out first lesson on how we’re to be treated as women: with honor and respect,” she said. “Not be lusted after, and there is zero tolerance for that.”
She also went into detail about her healing experiences and the role that her consideration of others’ pasts and compassion had in her healing.
“I know that trying to lock in compassions doesn’t mean I accept abuse, accept unacceptable behavior,” she said. “It means that in my prayer life, and in the way that I carry myself, it is not with resentment or anger.”
Whitehawk discussed the issues like how women might carry themselves in their communities so that men see their value rather than seeing them as objects, and how men who recognize that value can teach it to others. She said everyone shares the responsibility for promoting and honoring women.
Dave Coan, the Family is Sacred Coordinator, said Saturday’s event was focused on reminding women of their value.
“We recognize that there’s a lot of domestic violence in the community and, sadly, a great deal of it goes unreported,” Coan said. “Today is not the way it once was in a community like this, there was a lot more honor for women. And the main purpose of today’s event is to remind women of that. Today any man who comes here is to help serve the women. This event today is all about women and reminding them that they are in a position to be honored.”
Representatives from Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center were also present. Roxy Burkhart, Rape and Sexual Assault Advocate for CCWCC, said the Cedar Band of Paiutes and the CCWCC have similar goals.
“We work together in the community to provide supportive services,” she said. “A lot of times when one has an event we’re there to support the other. We all have the same goal — empowering people, getting people in safe places. Also, it’s a women’s event, honoring women, and we want to promote healthy relationships and make sure they know the resources in the area.”