This is a transcript of the second in a series of videos about Tillie Black Bear – the executive director and one of the founders of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS).
For 31 years, the WBCWS has served the Lakota Sioux Rosebud Reservation in Mission, SD.
Black Bear spoke to the Northern Michigan University 2008 Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference on September 23, 2008.
This is the second of several videos about her talk in the Great Lakes Room of the NMU University center and informal discussion that followed.
Tillie Black Bear:
"When we look at who we are as woman. We really have to look at where we come from as woman."
I always encourage women from other tribes to take a look at where they were before – pre-European contact. What belonged to women
Tribal women, we had rights. We owned property. We had our children with us. Our children belonged to the women.
With the impact of colonization, those rights were skewed.
Because we had our white sisters coming from Europe who were the property of the men. And the children were the property of men, as well.
So you had this group of people coming and interfacing with tribal women all across Turtle I sland. Whether it was the eastern coast or the western coast. And what they found there was (tribal) women who owned property.
What was written about tribal women by the explorers, the priests, by the churches was they depicted this image of – if you close you eyes and imagine whats your image of an Indian woman – we were portrayed as we had this thing on our back and we were towing something. We had like wood or we were towing something somewhere. Or else either that we were standing by a big black pot cooking."
"If you could do a paradigm shift to that idea – that the woman who had that stuff on her back – that was her property. It was what she owned. And she was carrying it somewhere.
That big black pot belonged to her.
In our culture as Lakota Sioux women – the teepee that we had was the womens domain. It was our teepee. And what went on inside that teepee was our responsibility.
Today we are real fortunate as tribal women that we dont have to set up those big 16-foot teepees anymore. Our brothers, our male relatives are the ones who learn how to set up for us the three poles and then bringing in the next poles until you have 12 poles that are standing up.
Our brothers do that today so we have been ind of spoiled as women because we dont have to do this anymore. In our tribe, can you imagine women – they would have contests to see how fast women could put up these teepees.
Within our tribe there might be two or three sets of women who could do it (now). I certainly couldnt do it and not have my brothers there, my males relatives, to come and help me.
Tribal women were responsible for that task. She owned that. It belonged to her.
If you look at who you are today as a women, what are the rights that you have, especially our white sisters, where did that come from?
About 20 years ago feminist historians began to have the eyes to see where suffrages like Matilda Joslyn Gage, Susan B. Anthony – where they got their ideas from about womens equality. It was from the Iroquois nation because a majority of those suffrages women have been adopted by the clan mothers.
"So they began to get their ideas about womens rights and they adopted many of their ideas about womens equality from those clan sisters from the Iroquois Nation.
So when we work today for equality for women, I work for tribal women to reclaim that equality that existed for us prior to colonization.
For our white sisters, I work for equality for them.
In todays world for tribal women, its pretty confusing because many of our male relatives have adopted those ways of our white male relatives in how they beat women – how they beat women today.
So I always encourage women, especially tribal women, to go back to the day that we were before that contact – pre-colonization.
How was it for Turtle Island women and all over Canada and Mexico.
We find that women definitely had rights.
Sociologist Susan Fletcher wrote a lot about what was happening to the Indian people in the 1860s there especially in South Dakota.
Fletcher went to Fort Randall where Chief Sitting Bull was being held and incarcerated.
One of his wives came in with wood and she was stoking up this fire, warming up the fire, in the tent where he was held
Is there anything youth think I could help you with and he (Sitting Bull) looked at her and said.
By me signing the treaties our Indian womens lives are going to change.
I want you to look out and write about our Indian women.
Sitting Bull took off a ring and gave it to her to do that.
This Chief Sitting Bull from Standing Rock knew what was going to happen to us as tribal women when he signed those treaties. The treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in 1868
Sister of man doing Crazy Horse monument came to Crow Creek on their honeymoon.
She was standing there with a group of tribal women and one of them gave a horse away.
She said: Shouldnt you ask your husband?
And the tribal woman said: My husband why? The horse belongs to me
The woman said: I forgot who I was talking to.
Property belonged to us and it was ours to give or to keep.
The many of the treaties between the U.S. and American Indian tribes were written by men not used to women with power or rights.
They came from a background where only men were in positions of power.
Only men signed treaties. Only men were in Congress.
They only wanted men in leadership positions.
If you look at the Irquois Nation. The clam mothers picked who would represent their clan. They had a process of nurturing a male to get to that point. There were things that this man could not do in order for him to be in a leadership position for the Iroquois Nation.
Black Bears visit was coordinated by the NMU Center for Native American Studies and the non-profit Turtle Island Project in Munising, Michigan.
The Turtle Island Project (TIP) has held several concerts and other events to raises funds for the WBCWS. TIP Director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard travels several times a year to the Rosebud Reservation.
Black Bear was greeted by Dr. Judith Puncochar, an NMU Professor and an organizer of the annual UNITED Conference.
Tillie Black Bear was introduced by Grace Chaillier, an NMU Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Center for Native American Studies and a registered member of the Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux – the same tribe as Black Bear.
Please watch the other Turtle Island Project videos on Tillie Black Bear’s talk in northern Michigan.
Black Bear addresses the Lakota teen suicide crisis, domestic violence, people respecting people and many other important issues.
The Turtle Island Project thanks Tillie Black Bear, NMU Center for Native American Studies, Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) and White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.
Great womens quotes by nations:
Rosebud Indian Reservation map Wikipedia graphic by Karl Musser
Native Americans and European settlers:
Iroquois clan sisters and suffrages women:
Cartoon on Iroquois clan sister and suffrages women drawn by Joseph Keppler
Photo of suffrages women and Iroquois sister: Iroquois clan sister and suffrages women courtesy Syracuse Peace Council website and author Sally Roesch Wagner
Native American & Indigenous and White Women’s Rights:
Colonial women gather quilting website:
Sitting Bull Photo & Info:
Sitting Bull photo by D. F. Barry, 1885 via the Library of Congress
Sitting Bull disrespected and insulted in death by the author who wrote Wizard of Oz:
Native American and Tribal women graphics:
Photo of Rosebud Reservation:
White Buffalo Calf Woman Legend:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (seated) with Susan B. Anthony (standing) photo on Wikipedia courtesy the Library of Congress
Suffrage Parade photo from The New York Times photo archive:
Courtesy: National Park Service
Tipi Tatanka Camp
Photo by Wanaunsapi Tiyospaye
1868 Sicangu Women and Children
1893 Arapaho two women and child
Lakota Woman works with dog on Rosebud Reservation
Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa Lakota) – all courtesy:
First People website.
Colonial women and Native women
Tillie Black Bear. Executive Director
White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.
October is Domestic Violence Month
Tillie Black Bear is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation/Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
She is presently the Executive Director of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc., which operates the oldest shelter for women who have been battered or raped on Indian reservations; and is the first shelter for women of color in the U.S. (1978).
Tillie Black Bear is recognized throughout the state, nationally, and in Indian Country as one of the leading experts on violence against women and children.
She is a founding mother of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and a founder of the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SDCADVSA) both in 1978.
She was the first woman of color to chair NCADV and continues to sit on the Board of Director for the SDCADVSA
Black Bear presently serves on the advisory board of National Sexual Assault Resource Center, Pennsylvania and is past member of the professional advisory board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Austin, TX.
Tillie Black Bear is pictured on Sept. 23, 2008 in Marquette, MI with Dr. José Cuellar of La Raza Studies at San Francisco State University, who spoke on "The Four Enemies of Diversity."
Black Bear and Dr. Cuellar were both featured speakers at the 2008 UNITED Conference at Northern Michigan University.
Black Bear is currently a council member for Clan Star a technical resources for tribal grantees through Department of Justice.
Tillie Black Bear was the recipient of an award from the U.S. Department of Justice for her work with victims of crime in April,1988; and in 1989 was one of President Bush’s “Point of Light”.
In 1999 at the Millennium Conference on Domestic Violence in Chicago, IL, Black Bear was one of 10 individuals recognized as one of the founders of the domestic violence movement in the United States.
She was awarded an Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in December, 2000 by President Clinton.
In May, 2003 Black Bear was a recipient of the first annual LifeTime Achievement Award from LifeTime Television.
Black Bear was selected as one of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century award by Women’s eNews in 2004.
In 2005, she received an award from NOW.
She is retired from Sinte Gleska University as a part-time instructor in Human Services; Casey Foundation as a licensed foster parent.
Currently, Black Bear works as a teacher of 13 years teaching students taking a course on cross-cultural ministry at Catholic Theological Union through Shalom Ministries out of Chicago, IL.
Black Bear and colleague Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D. have completed a poster series on Dakota and Lakota women elders on each of the nine Dakota and Lakota Nations in South Dakota entitled: “Dakota and Lakota Women – Keepers of the Nation”.
Another collaborative work is workshops on issues of Racism and Cultural Diversity, which has taken them to South Dakota, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.
Black Bear has worked as a therapist, certified school counselor, administrator, college instructor and comptroller.
She holds a Master of Art (1974) from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD; Bachelor of Science (1971), Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD.
She has served on the St. Francis Indian School Board of Directors, St. Francis, SD; and Sinte Gleska University Board of Regents, Mission, SD.
Black Bear is single mother of 3 girls, grandmother of thirteen and survivor of domestic violence.
Center for Native American Studies
Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Avenue
(906) 227-1396 (fax)
April Lindala, Director
112F Whitman Hall
(906) 227-1396 (fax)
NMU Adjunct Assistant Professor
Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux
112G Whitman Hall
PO Box 227
For more info on the WBCWS:
Javier H. Alegree
Public Relations Specialist
Media and Education
(605) 856-2494 (fax)
Turtle Island Project
137 East Onota Street
Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard, TIP Co-founder, Director
Rev. Dr. George Cairns, TIP Co-Founder, Board President
Turtle Island Project Director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard of Munising, MI was a guest speaker at the 2007 and 2008 UNITED Conference at NMU. Rev. Hubbard is pastor of the Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising, MI.
Please see the videos on his talks on TIP TV.
For more information on the TIP call 906-202-0590 or 906-401-0109.
In recent years, the Turtle Island Project has held several free concerts and other events to raise money for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society. This concert was held in Munising Michigan in Dec. 2007
NMU Native American student-run newspaper
Lakota Sioux & Rosebud Reservation: