Lakota Domestic Violence Activist Tillie Black Bear: Her family, growing up in the boarding school era, and life (then and now) on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota
Near Lake Superior, Tillie Black Bear faces west while singing the four directions prayer in Lakota on September 2008 at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. (Turtle Island Project Photo by Greg Peterson)
This the third in a series of videos about Tillie Black Bear and her visit to Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan in the fall of 2008..
In this video, Black Bear talks about her family, the boarding school era, the Rosebud Reservation and life now – and then – on the Rosebud.
Black Bear is the executive director and one of the founders of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS).
For 31 years, the WBCWS that serves the Lakota Sioux Rosebud Reservation in Mission, South Dakota.
Black Bear spoke to the Northern Michigan University 2008 Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference on September 23, 2008.
Black Bear spoke in the Great Lakes Room of the NMU University center and later held an informal discussion with the public.
Some quotes and paraphrases from Tillie Black Bear:
I come from … a family of people who – back in the 60s and 50s – could not practice our traditional spirituality, it had gone underground with it – it had gone underground – the pipe.
And practiced those ways until the late 60s and early 70s.
I know by 1978 they did the Native American Religious Freedom Act.
We were able to do these things out in the open.
Leaned traditional ways from her mother, stepfather, teachers in her family
My family was one of the first ones that brought the Sundance back to Rosebud in 1960 and they had to go to Washington D.C. and get special permission to be able to do it out in the open.
The Sundance is held out in the country.
I come from that rich tradition of resistance and it’s helped me become who I am as a woman.
I grew up with the boarding school background and in the years up until I graduated I was always like a visitor in my own home.
I come from a family of 11 (two older brothers, Tillie is third child, and the oldest of six girls).
The only time I ever went home was at Christmas time and during the summers for a couple months
So I was like a visitor in my own home but I hung onto speaking Lakota.
When I first went to school I spoke probably not more than four or five English words.
I remember going to first grade and even before that I could not speak English.
They came to the door at my grandmothers old log house and asked for my mother. She worked for this nurse.
I could say work nurse – work nurse
There was a small public school in our town – not more than 50 students.
After two weeks they sent home a note to my mother saying I wasn’t quite school ready. I should start the next year because I could not speak English.
I was like 4 or 5 years old and my mother
Playing at home with cousin – people people came to visit – uncles (mom’s two younger brothers) and said I thought she started school.
Her uncle said:
Tillie was so smart she finished her first year in two weeks.
This is the kind of family I grew up with – rich in humor and keeping ourselves humble.
Tillie then went on to college.
I was probably one of the first Indian women from our tribes in 1970 to get a bachelor’s degree in sociology. One of the first to get a master’s degree in 1974. Went back and did a doctoral study but I am one of those people with the ABD behind my back – all but dissertation.
When we look at who we are as woman. We really have to look at where we come from as women.
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.
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 (SDCADV&SA) both in 1978.
She was the first woman of color to chair NCADV and continues to sit on the Board of Director for the SDCADV&SA.
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.
Tillie 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 Bushs 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 Womens 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 D/Lakota women elders on each of the nine Dakota/Lakota Nations in South Dakota entitled: D/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
112F Whitman Hall
April Lindala, Director
Center for Native American Studies
(906) 227-1396 (fax)
NMU Adjunct Assistant Professor
Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux
112G Whitman Hall
PO Box 227
Official website of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe – Sicangu Lakota
Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED):
Northern Michigan University
September 21-23, 2008
Other UNITED links:
Dr. Judith Puncochar
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. The latest concert was held in Munising, Michigan in Dec. 2008
NMU Native American student-run newspaper
Check out these web addresses to read more about the Lakota (and other Native American tribes) Prayer & Song to the Four Directions: