The Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota is home to the Oglala Lakota, a tribe that is part of the Sioux people. But the beauty of this 2.8 million-acre spread is tempered by something that has become rampant on the reservation -- violence against women.
Elizabeth Kingi works with the Oglala tribal government's Victims Services Unit at Pine Ridge. “Already this year five women have been murdered by their spouse” she told Circa in late 2016.
Too few cops at Pine Ridge
Pine Ridge, like some other Native American reservations, struggles with poverty, unemployment and substance abuse. Sexual abuse is also a major problem. What compounds it is the reservation's small police force.
“We do what we can but there’s so few of us," said Ofc. Jason Brewer of the Oglala Lakota Tribe Police. "It's hard to keep tabs on them because a lot of people live out here in the country, and there’s really no physical addresses out here on the reservation.”
The stats are grim and alarming
According to The Indian Law Resource Center, one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetime, and three in five will be subjected to other forms of physical assault. The attacks are committed by men that live on the reservations, as well as men from the outside. The ILRC also reports that Indian women are more than twice as likely to be stalked than women who live outside their reservations. Native American women also are being murdered at a rate ten times the national average, according to the ILRC.
"... I thought it was normal..."
As part of an initiative to battle domestic abuse, the Oglala Lakota tribe's Victim Services Unit holds workshops for men in an attempt to curb the violence, and change the pattern of habitual abuse.
"I hit her with my fist as hard as I can," said one man attending the workshop. "Watching my father growing up, watching him beat on his wife I thought it was normal for everyone else."
“When I started doing this domestic violence class, I wanted to work with people that were being forgotten about," said Chissie Spencer. a frequent speaker at the workshops. As a former abuser of women, Spencer said he's trying get men at Pine Ridge to understand the end result of the damage they're inflicting on women. "If you can't do that you're gonna keep falling back into it, that old behavior," he said.
"I want these guys to leave from here and to go and be a good father, be a good brother, be who they’re supposed to be.”