In the mid-1990s, four national resource centers focused on domestic violence were created. This original network included (1) the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, (2) the Battered Women’s Justice Project, (3) the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, and (4) the National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence. These centers comprised the original Domestic Violence Resource Network (DVRN). In 1997, Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women became the fifth member of DVRN.
The DVRN was designed to support the development of local responses in jurisdictions. Indian tribes, as sovereign nations, have a unique historical, political, and legal relationship with the United States that is not race-based and is unlike any other jurisdiction. For the vast majority of tribes, domestic violence response was virtually nonexistent. It immediately became obvious that these resource centers, while invaluable, could not meet the needs of 562 sovereign Indian tribal nations, each able to pass their own laws and operate their own institutions.
The leadership of the original DVRN had preexisting, working relationships with Native women’s leadership. Their work included development of the Violence Against Women Act, including tribal set-asides. In a historic act illustrating the strength of women’s relationships and meaning of accountability, DVRN advocated to create a Special Issues Resource Center specific to the development of tribal domestic violence response. Each resource center willingly reduced their budgets for one year to establish a native-specific resource. Cangleska, Inc., a nonprofit chartered by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, was awarded the grant to create the native resource center.
The work of Sacred Circle is based on the premise that restoration of Native sovereignty is a prerequisite to the restoration of safety and dignity of Native women. Faced with the daunting task of assisting 562 tribal nations, most existing under Third World conditions as colonized nations, Sacred Circle works to reclaim belief systems of traditional, Native life ways where the status of women is sacred. The organization has developed Native specific materials that acknowledge domestic violence as an impact of colonization, with technical assistance and consultation based on the unique situation of each individual tribe.
Activities include the development of customized information packets, annual training schedules, Workshop Partnership Program, On-Site Visit Project, Web site, and sample tribally specific policy and codes. To date, Sacred Circle has worked with over 150 tribes, emphasizing the establishment of advocacy-shelter programs. As a strategy to support fledgling advocacy programs, Sacred Circle established a relationship with elected tribal leaders through the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) which led to the NCAI Task Force to End Violence Against Native Women. Sacred Circle also continues to educate tribal leaders through its woman-centered publication, Restoration of Sovereignty, Restoration of Safety for Native Women, providing information and recommendations on violence against women issues.
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