Native helpline launches for domestic, dating violence survivors
AUSTIN, Texas – For the first time, a culturally-relevant, safe and confidential resource is available for Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence, who now make up more than 84 percent of the entire U.S. Native population.
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline on March 6 launched the national crisis-line dedicated to serving tribal communities affected by violence across the U.S., called the StrongHearts Native Helpline.
Native survivors in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska – the helpline’s initial service areas — will be able to connect at no cost, one-on-one, with knowledgeable StrongHearts advocates who will provide support, assist with safety planning and connect them with resources based on their specific tribal affiliation, community location and culture.
Callers outside of these states can still call StrongHearts while the helpline continues to develop its services network. All services available through the helpline are confidential and available by dialing 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time Monday through Friday. Callers after hours will have the option to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or to call back the next business day.
“The reality is that so many of our American Indian and Alaska Native people experience domestic violence and dating violence every day,” Lucy Rain Simpson, NIWRC executive director and Navajo Nation citizen, said. “It has never been more evident that our Native people need a Native helpline to support efforts to restore power and safety in our tribal communities. The StrongHearts Native Helpline is ready to answer that call.”
The helpline was created by and for Native Americans who, compared to all other races in the U.S., are twice as likely to experience rape or sexual assault, 2-1/2 times more likely to experience violent crimes and five times more likely to be victims of homicide in their lifetimes. Even though four in five experience violence, Native Americans have historically lacked access to services.
“The hotline has served victims and survivors of domestic violence for 20 years, and we recognize that Native American survivors have uniquely complex needs,” Katie Ray-Jones, hotline CEO, said. “Through StrongHearts, domestic violence advocates will be able to address those complex needs with an unparalleled level of specificity.”
Advocates at the StrongHearts Native Helpline are trained to navigate each caller’s abuse situation with a strong understanding of Native cultures, as well as issues of tribal sovereignty and law, in a safe and accepting environment, free of assumption and judgment. Well-trained professionals will treat callers with dignity, compassion and respect.
“To enhance services is critical,” Marylouise Kelley, Family Violence Prevention & Services Act program division director, said.
Initially, StrongHearts will focus efforts on providing services to survivors who live in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, which combined make up more than 12.5 percent of the country’s entire Native American population.
“The team will leverage the large number of Native-centered resources established within these states to begin providing services, with further outreach to tribal communities as StrongHearts continues to grow,” said Simpson.
The StrongHearts Native Helpline plans to purposefully and thoughtfully expand its services to Native American survivors nationwide – based on utilization, demand and resources available.
“Verizon is proud to be the first corporate sponsor of the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a resource that will provide a crucial space for Native people to find support,” said Stuart Conklin, program manager at the Verizon Foundation. “We look forward to its success and continuing to build on a lasting partnership.”
PRYOR, Okla. – As she enters her second term, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor hopes to continue pushing education and health care as well as focus on how the shift in the White House could affect the Cherokee Nation.
She was first elected in 2013 to serve Dist. 15, which consists of southern Mayes and southern Rogers counties. When it comes to education, Taylor said her district has Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology and Rogers State University to give students chances to explore various career fields.
“I’m looking forward to the opening of the (W.W.) Hasting’s Clinic (in Tahlequah) and using that as a working, training hospital. RSU has programs to train health care professionals as does the vo-tech school, and I’ve got both of those right here (Pryor),” she said. “I’m looking forward to having those kids stay at home, take care of their own. I think those young professionals are going to fall in love with our way of life there in Tahlequah with the river and the scenery and all the things that are to do. They’ll stay and we’ll have this local talent staying right here in northeast Oklahoma, so I’m excited about that.”
She said CN citizens’ health is also an important issue, with a focal point being preventative health. “My passion is preventative health, and teaching Cherokees to own their health and look after their health. We have some excellent programs with…the cooking classes that we have in diabetes management, the fitness classes with the Wings (Fitness) Program that we have. That sort of thing is teaching our citizens that you don’t have to be a statistic. You can own your health, and here’s some ways to help you live a healthier life.”
She said by stressing a healthier lifestyle she’s noticed more citizens taking heed.
“I’ve talked to several elders who have participated in the diabetes cooking classes and they get excited about cooking good, healthy food, and a lot of people have never been taught that before,” she said. “That’s been one of the neatest things to see is that excitement in someone that’s 60, 70 maybe even 80 years old learning a new way to cook old favorites and make it taste good.”
Taylor said she is also focusing on how the Trump administration could affect tribal programs.
“What a lot of people at-large don’t realize is that only 5 percent of Cherokee Nation’s $1 billion budget comes from our gaming revenue. The vast majority of our budget is either federal programs that we administer or there are grants that our departments go out and get to run the programs that they have,” she said. “So we are going to have to watch the changes in Washington, D.C., from the funds that come down so that we can be sure to continue to serve our citizens with the programs that they depend on. Even if there may be a change in funding or a change in the way we can administer the funds or the amount of funds, I don’t want that to get ahead of us where all of a sudden we don’t have the funding that we expected from Washington, D.C., and so we have to cut back on a program.”
Taylor said she is “humbled” her constituents re-elected her and plans to continue working with them. “I do look at it as we’re working in this together. I am here to help them navigate the Cherokee Nation, and we’ll do it together.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Cherokee Nation Communications press release, the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program grant application will be available for public review at the tribe’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and field offices.
A draft plan copy will be available for review Aug. 21-22. During the review process, the public is encouraged to submit either written or verbal comments regarding the development of the final draft of the LIHEAP plan.
Anyone unable to review the application at one of the CN locations may request information and submit comments over the phone.
For more information and to submit comments, call 918-453-5150 or 918-453-5327.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix recently made a change to its Elder Fund to make U.S. military veterans eligible for free yearlong subscriptions to the Cherokee Phoenix.
Thanks in part to a donation from Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as donations from Cherokee Phoenix individual subscribers, it was possible to expand the fund to include Cherokee veterans of any age.
“The Elder Fund was created to provide free subscriptions to Cherokee elders 65 and older,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Due to an influx of recent donations, we had the ability to extend the Elder Fund to include Cherokee veterans. We will continue to give free subscriptions to our elders and veterans as long as we have money in our Elder & Veteran Fund.”
Using the newly renamed Elder & Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older and Cherokee veterans of any age can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription.
The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the Elder & Veteran Fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
No income guidelines have been specified for the Elder & Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last.
Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Elder & Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder & Veteran Fund donations.
The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, www.cherokeephoenix.org, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Child Support Services recently celebrated the office’s 10th anniversary.
Established in 2007, the Child Support Services office collects on average more than $4 million per year for Cherokee children and families.
Child Support Services Director Kara Whitworth said the program has changed a lot in the past 10 years and now operates with the whole picture in mind.
“When we opened our doors, the goal was focused on providing the basic child support services within our Cherokee communities. But our staff realized that child support is more than just collecting money,” Whitworth said. “It is about ensuring the family members involved in each household we serve are provided information and resources that assist with more than just child support assistance.”
In addition to child support enforcement, Child Support Services staff now assesses each family’s individual needs and makes suggestions on tribal programs or trainings that would be beneficial.
One program offered to participants is a specialized training called CN Building Blocks. The course educates parents on key issues like child support, legal responsibility, communication skills and more.
“Our services go beyond traditional child support. Each caseworker not only gets to know the families, but they assess any other needs they may have that can be addressed by the tribe, like child care subsidy, school clothing assistance and housing assistance,” said Whitworth.
Child Support Services has offices in Catoosa, Jay, Pryor, Sallisaw and Stilwell, with the main office located at 1525 Ketcher St. in Tahlequah.
For more information, call 918-453-5444.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With two new programs, the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare is expanding its efforts to assist children and reunite Cherokee families.
“What the law requires for an Indian child through the Indian Child Welfare Act is active efforts in order to try and reunite a family,” ICW Executive Director Nikki Baker Limore said. “I tell my workers, ‘we’re going to go to extreme efforts. We’re going to go as far as we can to provide these parents opportunity to reunite with these children.’”
The desire to go above and beyond led ICW officials to apply for two Victims of Crime Act of 1984 grants. The first was approved in September 2016 and used to create the Cherokee Children’s Cultural Connection program, or 4C. In April it began accepting children ages 4 to 18, giving them an educational and cultural foundation to build upon while in foster care and later in life.
Activities include canine and equine therapy, as well as time in a cultural classroom where children complete activities that teach them Cherokee colors, numbers and history.
“What I do is instill Cherokee culture and history into the children that come into our care,” Ruth Shade, ICW parenting paraprofessional, said. “They may not know anything at all, or some that do, they might not know they’re already living it.”
4C has also partnered with The Spider Gallery to provide children art therapy. For children wanting to learn a specific medium, such as bow making or basket weaving, 4C officials will put them in touch with a Cherokee National Treasure to get expert knowledge either in person or via Skype. The program has slow, fast and medium tracks depending on how long ICW workers think the case might take.
“When our children come into our care, sometimes we can really work their case plan, and if they’re only with us a certain amount of time we put them in our classroom and with our horses in equine, and they can do an eight-week course,” Shade said. “If some of our kids stay with us until they actually age out, we can work with them. We can structure the curriculum and therapy around that.”
The second grant created the Safe Babies program, which will begin accepting children from 0 to 3 years old in October.
“We wrote a grant called Safe Babies, and what it does it tries to go over and above to get those parents active in those babies lives because what recent statistics and data will tell you is children zero to 3 (years) do suffer trauma when they’re removed,” Limore said. “They’ve figured out it does just as much damage to small babies as it does to the older children who are able to explain it to you.”
ICW has created an apartment-type setup across the street from its offices with hopes that parents will spend more time with their children and increase the likelihood of reunification.
“Our goal is to have those parents come in and instead of just getting to see their children an hour or two a week, we want them to come in keep them all day while a worker sits right outside the hall,” Limore said. “We’ll help teach them how to care for that child if they’re a new parent, but we hope that instills better bonding and in turn, because they’re better bonded with the child, maybe they’ll work harder on fixing the issues that they have and then the child will thrive.”
Limore said while ICW children receive counseling, most do not get “concentrated services” to help cope with being taken from their homes and hopes the programs will fill the void.
“Through all of our teachings we just hope we instill in them what it is to be Cherokee so they become a stronger person, so they can overcome the trauma they’ve endured,” she said.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeekids.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeekids.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation have formed a medical legal partnership to offer certain civil legal help to Native American citizens in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
Michael Figgins, LASO executive director, said the partnership began after LASO approached the tribe regarding the AmeriCorps’ Partnering for Native Health Grant.
“This special program came up through AmeriCorps, and we’re part of a consortium with six other states. It’s all tribes doing medical legal partnerships, one big AmeriCorps grant and we were awarded,” he said. “When Legal Aid approached Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation was very responsive. We talked about it in the past, and I’m pretty sure that Cherokee Nation saw the value of having the medical legal partnership.”
Laci Klinger, managing attorney for LASO in the Tahlequah area, said the idea is to help those who are in poverty by providing legal aid to help alleviate medical needs or issues.
“The ideal behind this grant is if we can assist with some of the barriers that indigent people, people in poverty, are facing then it will help with some of the medical issues that they are facing,” she said. “It will help curb some of those benefits. The disparities that they’re facing in society that often lead to the medical issues such as housing issues or benefits issues.”
Some of the legal aid offered is end-of-life planning, estate planning, power of attorney and any type of benefit assistance such as Social Security benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare and Medicaid. Klinger said end-of-life planning and guardianship assistance is for seniors 60 and over, and benefits assistance is available for people of any age.
To receive services, clients “must be receiving medical services” and be “referred” by the facility from which they receive those services.
With the grant’s help, Klinger said the offered services are free.
“The biggest part with just getting it off the ground is just letting people know what we’re doing, and I think that’s the biggest obstacle that we face is just for people to understand what we’re doing,” she said. “We did a will’s clinic with (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital)…and we had about 50 seniors show up at our office one afternoon, so I know that there is a huge need. So it’s just accessing the people and letting them know that it truly is free. Oftentimes people are skeptical about that and they’re like, ‘what’s the catch?’ There is no catch. It truly is free. We truly are a nonprofit and we do not take money from people.”
Klinger said two attorneys and a paralegal visit health clinics and hospitals within Craig, Delaware, Ottawa, Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah and Wagner counties to offer legal aid services to those who are eligible.
“The idea is for them to go out into these various communities that have Indian clinics or hospitals to meet with people,” she said. “They’re setting up clinics to take in-take, to give legal advice and to see what legal needs we can meet that are civil legal needs.”
Klinger said help for those seeking services outside the grant’s realm could be provided through LASO’s other opportunities.
“Even though this particular grant is limited to the estate planning aspects and the benefits assistance, that doesn’t mean that if we help a family with benefits assistance and we identify other legal needs that we’re not going to help with that as well,” she said. “So if we identify a family that, ‘ok, this mom might need benefits assistance but she also might need to separate from an abuser’ then we’re going to move her to a different grant and we’re going to assist her.”
Klinger said the nonprofit has been in the state for approximately 50 years, and she’s “excited” to have this opportunity to help Natives in the area.
“We haven’t had anything designated just for tribal members before and this is a specific designation just for tribal members. So it’s pretty exciting,” she said.
The LASO Tahlequah office is located at 224 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-708-1150 or 1-888-993-2615.