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|Thursday, 16 October, 2014|
Attorney Geri Wisner from the Muscogee Creek Nation was the guest speaker at the Domestic Abuse Awareness presentation on October 9. (Roselynn Wahtomy)
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
FORT HALL – The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Victim Assistance Program (VAP) recognized Domestic Abuse Awareness Month on Thursday, October 9 with a sunrise ceremony, dinner and Domestic Awareness workshop.
The evening event was at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center.
Fort Hall Business Council Vice-Chairman LeeJuan Tyler offered the prayer.
Family Services Alliance of Southeast Idaho was in attendance to give a presentation on how to communicate with family. The topic touched on why communication between family members is important such as keeping everyone on the same page, making it easier to talk when times are difficult and establishing trust. Reasons it can be difficult to talk to family are many including it may hurt someone’s feelings; the topic may be embarrassing and so on.
TALKN tips were given to make the process easier, which included talk everyday; ask them to hear you out; listening goes both ways; keep the “I” statement in mind; and need a break – if you need one.
VAP’s Matt West took a moment to speak about the shocking numbers of domestic violence in Indian Country and that they are three times higher than the rest of the country.
“That’s not good. It destroys families. It destroys your children. It destroys the future,” he said. “I think our children are important and if we don’t do what we can to save our children, our mothers, our grandmothers, our aunties, our daughters, then what’s going to happen to the future?”
He was grateful to the audience in attendance and told them he hoped to count on them as the base of the group who wants to do something to address social problems like domestic violence in the community.
He also stressed the importance of passing on cultural and traditional knowledge to the youth.
The invited guest speaker was Geri Wisner, an attorney specializing in Native American law in Oklahoma, family law and victim advocacy. She is an Executive Director, NACA Partner, Allen & Wisner Attorneys. She is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and a former U.S. Marine.
Wisner spoke about domestic violence and its effects on children, families and communities.
She did an interactive presentation amongst the group asking them to come up with ideas on how to sentence domestic abuse offenders in today’s society using only customs and traditions of the Shoshone-Bannock people.
Suggestions from the audience included taking away spiritual practices, banishment, community service amongst the tribe, public apology amongst tribe, reporting to tribal elders and such.
Wisner talked about tribal sovereignty and how it comes from within a tribe.
“I think that each tribe inherently have their own answers to their own problems,” she said. “Each tribe have their own unique problems, situations, what are the drugs of use, what are the jurisdictional concerns but they also have their own traditional language, system of justice, their traditions and culture and I think that that should be the backbone of everything that goes on.”
Wisner believes it’s the Tribe that needs to collectively get together to make a decision that they are going to improve things.
As an attorney, Wisner sees many of today’s battles in Indian Country fought in the courtroom and now her weapon is her brief case, suit and knowledge. She gets impressed meeting other native attorneys who get that also.
Other presenters were Robb Redford, LCSW, who talked about his work with Redford Counseling & Family Services of Pocatello and how he works with offenders. Also presenting was Jamie Windt, MSC, and FBI Victim’s Specialist, who works with VAP to help clients.
Audrey Jim, VAP Manager, said they were really pleased with the response from this year’s event, which was different from previous years due to more planning and the thought of getting more people involved.
Participants received shirts designed by Iola Hernandez at the end of the program.