Sister Scythe has been helping to make a difference for years. Indigenous women are at a high risk for abuse, and this one-of-a-kind woman has dedicated much of her life to helping them. Despite her selflessness, she was “honored and humbled” to be featured as one of our stories of giving. Here’s what she had to say:
“Well first of all, thank you very much for considering me. I didn’t know when I first got your message that I was being honored and I am humbled by your recognition. I’m an enrolled Oneida Nation member and a descendant of Fond du Lac Ojibwe. I’m a mother to 4 beautiful kids and work as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. I have worked previously as a Child Protection Social Worker for tribal organizations, as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, as a former foster parent and as a teacher of Ojibwe language.”
Where did your journey begin?
I have long had an interest in missing persons. Due to the work that I do in the Indigenous community, I’m aware of the staggering amount of Native American women who become victims of violence. I noted that while there is a large campaign in Canada to find answers for unsolved murders and look into the investigative tactics of local authorities, no such movement has started stateside. As a mother of three future Native American women, it’s important to me personally that this be acknowledged in our country. It is completely unacceptable that there’s a 9 in 10 chance my daughters will be raped, a 13 times higher chance of them being involved in child protection and a high probability of them becoming victims of sexual or domestic violence. They are not just my daughters, not just native daughters, they are all our daughters.
What is the greatest lesson you learned along the way?
That there is a lot of support and need for the work I do. Online communities like Reddit and Facebook have been incredibly supportive and have helped me spread awareness about missing Native women and girls. I have had many friends and family members of the women I’ve profiled come forward to thank me for my blog. When I started “Justice for Native Women” in December of 2015, I didn’t know that anyone would ever read it. But thousands of people have read it and many have stepped forward and told me they have learned something from my work.
What made your journey the most difficult?
While there is an abundance of information (though incomplete) from Canada about missing or murdered Indigenous women, due to the lack of attention to this issue in the USA it is very difficult to find information online
about unsolved murders of Native Americans. Many times I will find articles about tribes bemoaning the many unsolved murders their people are living with, but no one ever names names or tells their stories.
What could have helped you along the way?
Just accountability on a lot of peoples’ parts. When someone goes missing and then is found, someone should be reporting on that. Someone should be reporting that these women go missing at all and it’s not always happening. There should be more coverage of unsolved murders in Indian Country. So often this violence is just considered a “Native American” problem that we have to resolve ourselves, but we don’t have the resources to do that. Either it’s okay for women to go missing or be murdered, or it isn’t. Everyone’s cases should be treated with the same amount of outrage and the same police response.
At WT, we are all about helping people to show off what makes them awesome. So, what makes you awesome?
No matter what I’ve been doing in my professional life, I have always been able to connect back to helping my people. I believe everyone should do what they can, and I mean that in a really real way. I can’t go to each state and investigate each murder, but I have the capacity to sit here and use my skills to write compelling profiles to spread awareness about these women’s lives. I can serve my community as a foster parent, as an advocate. They’re not easy things to do, but I can do them when not everyone can.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
I don’t know if I can think of a singular comment, but what brings me the most joy is when someone says I have moved them or helped them with something I’ve said or done. As an advocate- as a social worker, you put your heart and soul into your work to hear that small affirmation every once in awhile that you have done good in another person’s life. There is nothing more rewarding.
What is the best criticism that you have ever received?
When I was young, I had the tendency to think I was better than other people. I was taught later in life to be humble because we’re all one step, one mistake, one tragedy away from being at the bottom.
We are all changing and evolving all the time. How are you in the process of changing?
I am starting to allow myself to have an identity outside of being a mother and being okay with that. I love my children with all my heart and pretty much locked myself inside my house for 4 years raising them. Now, they’regetting a little bigger and I feel like I can go out and do the things that bring me fulfillment. I think that’s a big part of self-care and something all mothers struggle with.
Our slogan/mantra at WT is Define Your Normal. So, what is your definition of normal?
My normal is living each day knowing you’ll never get another chance to do it again. So many times I’m told “you’re so brave” or “you must be so busy” doing all the things I do, but really it’s just the realization of my own mortality. I don’t want to wish I did something, I want to do it! Doing it is my normal.
How does your personal style/look help to define you? Is there anything that counteracts that/gives people the wrong impression about you?
I have plugs in my earlobes, a nose ring, and a mostly shaved head. I also tend to dress kind of masculine sometimes as I love street wear. I think this gives people the impression that I’m sort of a “hard” person, but I am very empathetic. I don’t want to scare anyone off, I just love celebrating who I am and have never felt more in tune with that person as I do now at 30.
Now, let’s have some fun with some Rapid Fire Questions!
What makes you feel…
PROUD- My husband and children.
ANGRY- Someone in a position of vulnerability being preyed upon by someone stronger.
EXCITED- Trying new things.
SCARED- Thinking about the future for my kids.
LUCKY- That so far everything I’ve wanted to do, I’ve done.
CONFLICTED- Anything to do with the criminal justice system. It’s necessary but fails so many people in so many ways.
EMPOWERED- Working with other women who support each other.
HOPEFUL- When I receive responses, like from your site, that tell me Justice for Native Women is important and acknowledges the issue.
SAD- When I read about lives cut short.
STRONG- Listening to anyone speak in my language.
Would you rather…
The freeway or Scenic Route? Scenic route
A night out with friends or a quiet night in? Quiet Night in
An adventure trip or a relaxing vacation? Relaxing vacation
A great job with long hours or an okay job with lots of time off? Great job
The 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s? Can I say the 90s? I miss the 90s.
Are your real life (people you know) role models?
My mother Paula, my friends Steve O’Neil and Angie Miller, my uncle Bob, and my best friend Desiree.
Are your famous or well-known role models?
I’m inspired by Bernie Sanders, Killer Mike, Corey Booker, Buffy St. Marie, and Malala.
Would you like to work with/for in the future?
I’d like to continue working in advocacy. I’m working on my masters in criminal justice and plan to use that for working with victims/survivors.
Inspired you most as a child?
Strangely, I was always in love with Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano Queen. She was the first CD I ever bought. I admired her work ethic, her ties to her family, joy in helping people, and the way she was able to break barriers and bring people together with her amazing gift.
Pushes you the hardest?
My Dad and my husband. My Dad keeps me humble, my husband keeps me going.
What is your favorite WT product?
I, of course, love the MMIW t-shirts and would love anything that helps me draw attention to this issue. Thank you for supporting Native Women.
As a Thank You to Sister Scythe for all that she has done for her community, Wearable Therapy has sent her a shirt and a purse featuring her favorite design. She is truly an amazing woman doing amazing things!
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