White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Rosebud, South Dakota

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Interview with Gunner Krogman, Project Coordinator and LeToy Lunderman, Development Manager

Briefly introduce your program and the population that it serves
The Sicangu MVP program was started in 2015 in response to a gap of services that we identified for our male relatives. White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society Inc. (WBCWS), which houses Sicangu MVP, has primarily served women and children by providing services around domestic violence and sexual assault for over 40 years. Through our Supporting Male Survivors of Violence (SMSV) grant through Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) we are serving Native young males 10-18 years of age who have experience violence and providing healing through cultural teachings and experiences, crisis intervention, and advocacy services. 

What have you found to be the biggest need for this population and how has your program address that need? 
Rosebud, South Dakota has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation at 43% and an unemployment rate of 83%, one of the highest in the country, with the only major employers being the BIA, local schools, Indian Health Services, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Lack of housing is another major issue for the Tribe; two to three families frequently occupy a single home. The rate of poverty and the use of drugs and alcohol are directly related to the issue of victimization of our young male (hoksila) population on this reservation. Our male youth are impacted with other factors such as interpersonal violence in the home and sexual assault among the youth population, with offenders who are both adults and children. The lack of parental supervision, participation, and support in young males’ lives add to the factors that increase the youth’s risk of becoming victims of violent crimes, continuing victimization of our youth. 

Sicangu MVP is working with our young men to connect them to their Lakota culture by providing healing opportunities through cultural teachings and experiences, and also providing crisis intervention, and trauma-informed services for them and their families. 

What are you proudest regarding your work through the SMSV grant?
Providing services to our male relatives is groundbreaking work for our reservation. This work is a concerted effort to call out the historical trauma that our men have experienced and intentionally providing services for them to heal from that trauma. Additionally, as predominately Women serving organization, it is helping us to think about strategies to more holistically provide services to the entire family, including the men. It is already changing norms, organizationally and in our community. 

What new relationship or resource have you found to help move your work forward?
Partnership and collaboration has been significant in helping to move this work forward, and understanding that not one organization can hold all the work – it takes the entire community. Having opportunities to learn about what others are doing such as other SMSV projects like Safe Horizon and Make It Happen helped us in our visioning and direction for the project. It was impactful to help us to see where we need to go and consider other program components and ideas. It was great to hear about others’ struggles but also to receive their support. The support from our local program partners has also  been extremely positive, and the relationship with our community members has been instrumental in helping to move our work forward. 

What is something positive a client or partner said about your work related to the SMSV grant
There is one young boy that comes to mind that we serve that talks a lot about Gunner and Lucas (Sicangu MVP staff members); he had mentioned that feeling safe and not judged through being a part of our program – he can be himself. So many of our young boys open up about personal things that they haven’t shared with anyone else. For them, It feels good to know that they have someone to reach out to, and they didn’t have anyone before or the resources that they do now. 

What have you learned that you will carry with you as you continue this work?
For us, one of the most important lessons that we’ve learned is acknowledging that our male relatives need emotional support all across the board and we need to create more opportunities to meet those needs. We also need to provide better access to positive male role models. 
 
There is such a high need for males to have a space to process and heal from their traumas; and that it is okay for males to call out that trauma and they have the same needs as anyone else but that there isn’t as much dedicated resources for them or that it is not culturally appropriate for them to access them if they are available. It is humbling to understanding that we are helping to change those norms on our reservation.