I got a call last evening from the reservation. It was from a young girl that I had added to my list just the past week. I had placed her 8 month old son on the OKINI (Lakota: sharing) list to receive some warm clothing.
When I say “young girl”, I mean really young woman. She is probably 18 though she sounds even younger. The first time I spoke to her I thought to myself that this was a couple that was going to need a lot of support.
Now I will have to say this is a young girl who will need a lot of support. The reason she called was to tell me she’d had to move off the reservation and back to her mother’s home.
She told me that the baby’s father had thrown her and the baby’s belongings out of the house. He had beaten her. She did not tell me but I would assume he had been drinking. Since he was on “work release” she had notified the police about the beating. They had picked him up.
She told me that his family was spreading rumors about her on the reservation and harassing her. This is far too common in domestic disputes on the rez. Blood is definitely thicker than water here.
She told me that she did not want anyone to send things to the old address because she thought they would sell them to get money for booze or drugs. The baby would not get them. I took her new phone numbers, though I won’t be able to do anything for her since they are off the rez now.
It always takes me aback to get a call like that. Not only do I feel the sadness and despair of the caller. But I feel a kind of personal sadness. Here I sat in my warm living room, my children raised and doing fairly well, watching hockey and feeling content. My only significant domestic concern is getting my mother’s house sold before the vandals have picked the estate clean. Certainly not the kind of domestic upheaval this young girl was experiencing!
The deepest sadness I feel is that this girl is not the only woman on the reservation who is being beaten by her partner. She is not the only young girl too young to have the responsibility of raising a child herself. She is not the only young woman to be subjected to harassment and bullying after a domestic dispute.
Yet she feels herself alone. She ran away from the reservation for safely and peace. She now has DSS looking into her fitness as a mother.
I think of the little baby boy. Already living in a chaotic situation at 8 months of age, what will he have to look forward to in life. Will he be one of the ones who succeeds because his mother was brave enough to leave his father? Or will he be like so many others, experiencing hunger, cold, lack of necessities and loss of hope before he is close to being an adult? Will he lose hope to the extent that he takes his life? Or will he turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to not feel his pain . . . and die a slower death?
I hope he will understand that he was safer because his mother had the courage to take him with her and keep him safe when she decided to move.
When she HAD to move so she could be a good mother.