By Cherrah Giles
Development Associate, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
BIG CYPRESS — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Big Cypress Reservation hosted two awareness events at To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne on Oct. 11 to commemorate the month.
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum presented the first event to kick-off its 2020 Lecture Series.
The day opened with a prayer from Tribal member Martha Tommie, and attendees were welcomed by Museum Director Kate Macuen, who communicated the vision for the lecture series and invited everyone to the next lecture to be held Feb. 21, 2020 with guest lecturer Tina Marie Osceola.
“Domestic Violence is Not Our Tradition” was the first lecture presented by Cherrah Giles, who is the development associate at the museum and also serves as chairwoman of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).
NIWRC is a Native nonprofit organization created specifically to serve as the National Indian Resource Center (NIRC), addressing domestic violence and safety for Indian women.
Under this grant project and in compliance with statutory requirements, the NIWRC seeks to enhance the capacity of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, Native Hawaiians, and Tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations to respond to domestic violence.
Cherrah (Muscogee Creek/Cherokee) is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but now makes her home in Naples, Florida, with her husband Justin (Muscogee Creek/Cherokee), who also works for the museum as the Oral History coordinator. Cherrah is Fuswvlke (Bird Clan) and from Rekackv (Broken Arrow Tribal Town).
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, teenage dating violence, and domestic violence, she shared her powerful story of resiliency and finding empowerment through her tribal community and the grassroots movements of indigenous women.
Her work as a survivor-advocate has led her to provide testimony about the safety and sovereignty for indigenous women to the United States Congress, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
As a former tribal council representative of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she was able to share her experiences, cultural programming ideas, and visioning for ending domestic violence by starting with having open conversations in safe spaces.
The second event, an awareness rally, was a collaboration between Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Big Cypress Council Office, and the Department of Health & Human Services.
Attendees were treated to light refreshments, resource information, and guest speakers.
Center for Behavioral Health staff and advocates from The Shelter for Abused Women and Children were on site to share service information and provide help for anyone in need during the events.
An information table was also provided by NIWRC with information from their Native Love project and StrongHearts Native Helpline.
Martha Tommie shared her moving survivor story of living in a domestic violence home for years but finding the strength to finally leave and heal by overcoming her addictions and working through her trauma.
Attendees were called to action to end domestic violence in their communities and to keep the conversation going.
Anyone in need of assistance was encouraged to seek help and reach out to family, friends, community, local law enforcement, domestic violence advocates, and the StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483), a safe domestic violence and dating violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives that offers culturally-appropriate support and advocacy daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.
It is anonymous and confidential. Callers reaching out after hours may connect with the National Domestic Violence hotline by selecting option
Domestic violence is never okay!