A little voice in my head

Prospect Park I recently wrote a post on mental health in America, which to date, is at a national crisis level.  There are so many people walking around who are mentally ill and yet have no support or insurance to help them.  We hear about these people in the news after they have committed a horrible crime.  Then there are the one’s who had caring family members who decided to take matters into their own hands and forced treatment before things got so bad they either hurt themselves or worse, others.

No matter what some people may think of us, I believe we are in that circle of caring families.  After struggling for four long years with a step son who is autistic, was suffering from PTSD and ADHD with ODD, we decided to take a step where some may say was cruel but in fact, may have saved his life.  My step son was carrying around so much anger within him, he was unable to function in the real world.  Oh, he tried, but always failed miserably.  And even though we were in family therapy on a weekly basis, had him on a special diet, as well as a special school plan, we were failing him.

Unable to communicate his needs to us or his therapist, we witnessed countless meltdowns, screaming matches, destruction of property, stealing, and lying from him almost on a daily basis.  What a disservice to him as well as us as a family unit.  His psychiatrist put him on an ADHD drug, which worked on his ability to focus better in school but did nothing for his mood swings.   His behavior became more and more aggressive to the point where we feared for our lives.  During one of his many meltdowns, which lasted for hours, my husband finally called the police.  We were unable to calm him down or talk to him and it was a last resort.

The police came to our house, spoke to us and decided to take him down to a mental hospital for 72 hours.  After speaking at length, my husband and I decided the help he was supposedly getting just wasn’t working and we needed to take a more drastic approach to his mental illness.  We called our insurance and luckily there was one residential mental hospital two hours away from us where we could send him. However, even though they would cover most of his costs, the co pay was $900 per month.  A steep price to pay in order to get your child the help they needed.

Per our tax attorney, since he had an inheritance from his mother and grandfather, we were told we could use this money as it was for his health and well being.  We contacted his trustee who balked at this but relented in reimbursing us.  They told us his money was “for his future” and frankly, we came back with, “if he doesn’t get this help now, he won’t have a future.”  Really?  Now since we have never received a copy of this said trust, we have no idea how much money he has, and we have since contacted a trust lawyer who has told us we have every right to get a copy of the trust since my husband is his guardian.  Her giving us a hard time about reimbursing us for these expenses only adds to our stress in this situation.  We never asked for dime of reimbursement the last four years he has been in treatment, but with the added expenses and us living on a fixed income, has made it a hardship on us. The part that really frustrated me was when she stated, “well, you guys are taking all these trips.” Excuse me?  A vacation we had planned a year ago is “taking all these trips?” What? We aren’t allowed to take a vacation?  Or does she think we are using his money for ourselves?  We have supplied every receipt to her and nothing says we are spending this money on ourselves.

It took my step son five months in the residential hospital to finally work through most of his anger issues.  We had weekly family therapy sessions where we had to drive over 200 miles for a one hour session.  Never have we asked to be reimbursed for our time or our gas money.  His new psychiatrist changed up his meds until they found the ones that are working for him.  As his therapist told us, this is just an aid but he needs to do the work in order to control his anger.  It wasn’t until the last month and half where we actually saw a visible difference in his attitude.  He stopped screaming at the staff, stopped fighting with his peers, became more accountable of his actions.  Huge improvement!

He was released from the hospital this week and we decided to put him in a residential home so he could continue to get the help he needs.  We had to pay for first and last month’s rent and again, his trustee is balking about reimbursing us.  Our insurance does not pay for his stay here which rings in at $5,000 per month however, he will continue to get daily therapy, he will learn how to live on his own so he can finally be independent.  He has his own room.  He can have his bike so he can get from point A to point B if he wants.  They will school him and he will have house rules to follow.  We met everyone yesterday and they all are extremely nice, including the other kids in the house.  My step son has grown several inches and gained a few pounds.  While he was at the hospital, we had to purchase 3 different size clothing for him.  When we left him, he was cooking dinner for all the other kids.  He gave us a list of things he wants us to bring him which we will on Sunday.  His last request was for me to bring him my recipes!  He loves my cooking.

The decision to put him in the hospital was a hard one but it was the best one.  We are seeing that now.  He is a changed person, a nice person.  His face is more relaxed because he worked through his anger, he no longer is suffering from PTSD because he worked through the death of his mother as well as his grandfather to whom he was very close.  We were worried it would take years because of his autism but as I told my husband, “I think he finally got it.”  He seems excited about his new adventure, his future, and we are excited for him.

We have to thank the staff at Cedar Springs Hospital as well as his psychiatrist and his therapist.  God knows the work they put in to help him has really paid off.  He was an angry kid who never wanted to share how he was feeling.  He did many things for attention, most were not good but it didn’t matter, he just wanted attention.  For years, he was exhibiting behavior that was screaming to be recognized and yet, my husband nor his late wife or myself for that matter, were able to see it.  It took a Middle School principal to see that he had been misdiagnosed by a popular health insurance (Kaiser) and that we needed to take it a step further.

He finally has a promising future.  He still has a long way to go but he is at least on the right path.  I feel for the families who can’t afford to do this for their children.  He is lucky he has a little nest egg to be able to insure he does have a future.  I’m sure both his mother and his grandfather would approve.

Alaska – The Last Frontier

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

This year our vacation plans were to go to Alaska, a place where both my husband and I had been before.  He had been stationed there back in the ’70s as an infantry soldier, and I had been there on a cruise for my parent’s 50th anniversary in 2002.  We were both excited to re-visit this vast wilderness.

We rented an apartment in Wasilla through Home Away as we were staying for 15 days.  An old high school friend of mine, who had been up there since she graduated high school and had been trying to get me to come visit for 40 years, and her husband were our main focus for visiting.  As we get up in age, friends we’ve had for a lifetime are people we need to continue to have in our lives, mostly because we never know when we will get the opportunity to see them again or when our journey on this earth will end.  For me, the friends I have today are people who have been in my life for a very long time.

We flew up on United, which had one straight through flight.  We left Denver around 7:00 pm MDT and landed in Anchorage at 10:55 pm AKDT.  It was still daylight out (Land of the Midnight Sun), picked up our rental car, and headed to the hotel where we spent the night.  Never have I been so grateful for black out curtains than I was during this vacation.  In the morning, we contacted my friend, Pat, and headed out to meet them for breakfast in Eagle River (which happens to be the setting of the Women’s Fictional story I’m writing).

We then followed them to their house where we sat around drank a couple of beers and reminisced about our high school shenanigans. It was so good to connect with my friend as we had been pretty close in high school both having just moved to San Diego from different areas and having to ride a school bus until we got our driver’s licenses.   We did some crazy stuff and she had the pictures to prove it!  We did plenty of laughing during our trip that’s for sure.

People who have lived in Alaska for a long time, most have homesteaded the land they live on.  Tom’s mom was one of those who had been up there since the ’50s.  One of the pieces of property she and her husband had homesteaded was prone to avalanches in the winter months.  She had re-built her home three times because she ended up losing every one of them to an avalanche.  Tom drove us up to where his mom’s house was and all I can say is “wow!”.  The land was so steep but what a beautiful view.  No wonder she was so determined to re-build after each disaster.  Unfortunately, Tom’s mom died in an automobile accident on Thanksgiving Day driving over to their house for dinner.  Since it was winter and the sun doesn’t stay up longer than two hours each day and the roads were icy that day, they believe she either swerved to miss an animal or another driver ran her off the road.  Tom and Pat inherited her house and eventually sold it.  However, up at the property, you could still see remnants of an old foundation that had slid down the mountain and some of her plants that re-planted themselves on the hillside.  An old road that lead up to the house was also covered by dirt, trees and plants, and eventually a new road was put in only higher up.  Pretty amazing.

We drove 1500 miles and only saw a small portion of the Alaskan State but what we saw, we were in awe over.  Because of my geology background, I was able to point out extinct volcanoes, as well as land formations by glaciers.  We went to Portage Glacier and Matanuska Glacier, which is a valley glacier 27 miles long by 4 miles wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States and we were able to walk on it.

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We drove by beautiful fast flowing rivers, waterfalls, wildlife (mostly Moose) went to an old Gold Mine, and we stopped into this little town, Sutton, that once was booming during the Coal Rush.  We were able to walk through some of the old buildings including the post office.  Inside the post office, which was extremely small, on the wall was a picture of a  young boy and his mother, who was the post master at the time.  As we were walking through the ruins of an old coal washing facility, Tom and Dana were talking to an old guy who was walking around the place too.  Come to find out, he was the little boy in the picture with his mother who was the post master.  He had come back to town for a high school reunion and wanted to make sure their picture was still up in the building.  Talk about a small world.  And then to top it off, a few nights later, the news station was doing a story on him.  Only in Alaska!

One day in Talkeenta:

Said to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Cicely in the popular TV show “Northern Exposure.”  A turn-of-the-20th-century gold-mining center, Talkeetna has retained much of its early Alaska flavor. Log cabins, a roadhouse and clapboard storefronts line the dirt streets. Main Street, the only paved road in town, greets visitors with a hand-hewn sign reading “Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna.

Gold brought miners to the Susitna River in 1896, and by 1910, Talkeetna was a riverboat steamer station, supplying miners and trappers in the nearby mining districts. The town’s population peaked at more than 1,000 during World War I, declined after the Alaska Railroad was completed and has bounced back as the staging area for ascents of Denali, Mount Foraker, the Moose’s Tooth and scores of other high peaks.

We purchased a “tree face” here. It’s a face that is carved out of wood.  They are all hanging on a tent wall and you are supposed to check them all out,  which ever one speaks to you, that’s the one you purchase.  I have mine now hanging on our wall in our bar room. It said, “pick me” when I looked at its nose!

We ate and drank at many different places throughout.  Plenty of breweries to taste some of that fine Alaska beer, and of course, the fish was so fresh.  We did not go salmon fishing because there was a fishing ban.  Mostly due to the few salmon this year for some reason, so they closed the streams for any fishing to get the population back up.

The weather was chilly and rainy.  Where we stayed in Wasilla, it was windy too.  But that is to be expected when you are in Alaska.  If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes, and that was true.  We met so many of Pat and Tom’s friends which are some of the nicest people I have met to date.  One Saturday Pat invited all her girlfriends over to meet me and we had a blast.  Everyone brought a dish of food and we sat around the kitchen table drinking, laughing and telling stories.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  The guys were in Tom’s man cave (garage) and they seemed to have a good time as well.

Most evenings found us sitting around a bonfire.  Bonfires are a big thing in Alaska because it helps keep the mosquitoes away.  Now I know why they call the mosquito Alaska’s state bird.  It’s not about how big they are, it’s about how many there are.  The smoke from the bonfire keeps them away, well, mostly.  Since they love munching on my blood, I made sure I was protected.

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We drove up to see Denali and wouldn’t you know it, the first beautiful day since we had been there.  We rented very small cabins since the drive was about 4 hours up there.  Once in Denali, we took a bus tour which lasted 6 hours.  Denali was standing there in all her glory and we got some awesome pictures.  Even our bus tour driver said it was the first day of the season there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  We saw caribou, Dal Sheep, a rare falcon, an eagle, but no bears or moose.  At the gift store, I purchased two books on bear attacks, I mean, what else are you going to read when you’re in Alaska?  Plus it will fit nicely into my plot for my book.

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We went into Anchorage and went to a store that sold fresh smoked salmon and reindeer sausage.  Since it was so good, we purchased several packages of each and had it shipped home.  One of Pat’s friends sent us home with homemade smoked salmon, as well as some frozen fresh salmon which her hubby had caught the year before.  What a treat!  We also purchased sweatshirts, magnets, a moose head (carved out of wood for our bar), and some T-shirts.

We went to the Wild life Preserve where they take care of injured animals.  It’s the only place we saw a black bear and a grizzly bear.  Both were putting on shows for their audience.  Especially the grizzly bear who was lounging in a pond and doing back flips making everyone laugh.

In Wasilla they have the Iditarod museum along with some of the dog teams.  The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, entirely within the US state of Alaska. Mushers and a team of 16 dogs, of which at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish line, cover the distance in 8–15 days or more.  After visiting the museum we were allowed to go see the team of dogs on display along with 2 week old puppies, who were future Iditarod dogs.

These dogs are very well taken care of and they practice year round.  Most mushers have at least 30 dogs and they are required to wear booties on their feet especially when they are in the race.  I was surprised to learn many women mushers have won the race which is very harrowing.

Another fun fact I learned about Alaska is their beaches.  They have them but don’t dare take a stroll on one.  The sand is quick sand and it will suck you under in no time!  Best just to admire them from afar.

Our fifteen days went by quick but we had a blast every where we went.  The weather did not bother us as we came prepared with rain gear.  We went to a speedway, just drove around looking at stuff, everything is big there.  The various pictures below are from different places we went to.  A memorable trip, only one sad part of our trip.  Our fifteen year old golden retriever/chow mix decided he’d had enough of life while we were gone.  Sadly we had to put him down as he wasn’t walking or eating any longer.  I hope it wasn’t because he was homesick, but I did get to say goodbye to him over the phone.  RIP Harley boy.  We sure do miss you! These are the last pictures we have of him. 😦

Some more interesting facts I learned about Alaska, their population is about 700,000 but during the summer months it increases to 1 million!!  Respect the wildlife!  They are unpredictable.  While we were there, a man was out hiking and was mauled by a grizzly bear in Eagle River.  A search party went looking for him and found his remains however, the bear was still around and mauled one of the search and rescue people, lucky for him he survived.  The bear escaped and was still on the loose when we left.

The rivers up there are bitter cold.  You can survive in a river for probably 5 minutes if you fall in, you will die of hypothermia.  While we were there a young girl was hiking and fell into a river.  Lucky for her, there was a dog following her and the dog rescued her from the freezing water.  Found out this dog was a rescue and his owner lived at the base of the trail, every day, this dog would walk along the trails, and if someone was hiking alone, he would follow them to make sure they got where they were going safely.  This dog is a white Shepard mix and according to his owner, has saved several people from bear attacks, falling into the river, or helping lost hikers find their way out of the wilderness.  Amazing animal!

We had a great trip!  If you’ve never been, I suggest you go there at least once.  There is so much to see, I only covered half of what we did up there.  We did not go to the Earthquake Museum as the day we were going I got food poisoning.  We did however, go to Earthquake Park.  This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean during last century’s most powerful earthquake. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes.  Natives still talk about it today.  It’s like their 9/11.

Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn was another interesting place.  It’s between Denali and Fairbanks.  We purchased several souvenirs from him and as you can see from the pictures above, it’s an adult only place!

My old high school buddy showed us a great time and not only did we renew our friendship, we got to spend quality time with her and her husband.  It’s a different way of life up there, and I’m not sure I could live there.  The winters are brutal with only 2 hours of sunlight a day, probably why so many people are crafty up there.   And just like it would be a hard adjustment to move there, my friends feel the same way about the lower 48.  They aren’t sure where they would fit in down here because life is so very different.  We left with many good memories and hubby and I said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  Alaska is definitely the Last Frontier!

Banter

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Last summer when I was trying to get visitation rights to my son’s two children, Matthew and Zoey, he took the side of his ex-wife to not allow them to travel out of state.  Since then, my son and I have not spoken and though I have been down to San Diego twice since, he will not allow me to see my grandchildren.   Continue reading

New WOE

My New way of eating

From my previous two posts about trying to lose weight…always seemed like an up hill battle.  After getting a few suggestions, I decided to research this Keto thing that seems to work for lots of people.  I did my body type (adrenal and thyroid), purchased supplements (I did this because I knew my body was missing nutrients), watched Dr. Berg’s videos, joined a Facebook group, and began my new way of eating (WOE).  I explained I had tried almost every diet out there with little to no results.  I would lose 10-12 lbs and then put it right back on.  I could not go below that 10 lb mark.  Talk about frustrating.  No matter how long I stayed on track, the scale never budged past that mark.

This is week 4 for me on Keto.  The scale (which I was told to hide) didn’t move for almost 2.5 weeks.  I figured I was doing something wrong.  I sent a private message to Dr. Berg and amazingly enough, he answered (or one of his well qualified staff did!) He sent me three videos of his on how to achieve rapid weight loss for adrenal and thyroid body types.  So, I was eating all wrong!  Well, not all wrong but the little tweaks he told me I should do, worked! I seemed to be following old eating habits: high protein, low fat, lots of veggies and I was putting blueberries in my kale shake every morning.

I was eating the wrong berries.  I should have been eating blackberries and raspberries.  I was eating the wrong nuts.  I should have been eating pecans and macadamia nuts.  I was eating when I wasn’t hungry rather than fasting a little longer.  I was eating the wrong meats.  I was eating salmon and chicken when I should have been consuming more eggs, hamburger, pork, lamb, and steak.  I didn’t know what “fats” to eat.  And now I know I need to consume 50-70% of my meals with healthy fats.  Pork or bacon, brie cheese, steak (prime rib), lamb, hamburger (the fattest I can find), pecans, avocado and butter on my veggies.  And guess what?  Once I started eating like he suggested for rapid weight loss, 2 days in, I had lost 3.8 lbs!  (I did not hide my scale).  And today when I weighed myself, I was down another 1 lb.

So, since starting this eating plan almost 4 weeks ago, I have gone from 193 to 186 – that’s 7 lbs.  I’m so glad I reached out to him for some help because I was again thinking, “oh, no, here we go again.”  But that is not what I’m thinking anymore.  I’m thinking, “oh, hell, yes!”  I do not mind fasting at all.  In fact, most days I fast from dinner the night before until dinner the following day!  So, that’s about a 23 hour fast.  I love how everyone abbreviates OMAD or TMAD (one meal a day vs. two meals a day).  My eating window is 2 hours so I have to consume all the fat, carbs, protein and calories in one sitting within a 2 hour window.  Once you get used to it, it’s pretty darn easy.

I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.  I’ll post more pictures before and afters.   I do want to add, I have so much energy, I am working out 4 days per week with a trainer and I can already see my muscle tone coming back.  This WOE may not be for everyone but for the one’s I have met on FB, the brave souls who post their before and afters, the people who no longer have to take medication for diabetes or pre diabetes, the one’s who are way more healthier than they have ever been in their adult lives, this is for them and for me.  I really thought I would miss sugar, but I don’t.  I still get to cook and bake and it’s fun trying out new recipes.  I’m by far not an expert on this WOE but I’m learning new things everyday, and it seems to be a good thing for me and my body.

Sometimes we just have to let go of the norm and look outside the box.  I’m so glad I never gave up!

Keto

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I want to thank everyone who reached out to me yesterday after I posted my Fit (Fat) for Life blog.  Suggestions for me to try out a new way of eating, one that will suit my lifestyle, were Paleo and Keto.

I have decided to try out the Keto, both are very similar in foods but I do like the fact that you concentrate on fat rather than low fat.  Low fat hasn’t worked for me and it is obvious by the numbers on my scale.

I have done much research in the last two days on this and after watching Dr. Berg’s vlogs on the Keto Diet, I was amazed at what I learned.

You start out by finding out what your body type is.  Mine was broken down into two, Adrenal and Thyroid.   As  you can see from my pictures I posted yesterday, my arms have gotten so big, I’m embarrassed to where sleeveless shirts and normally go for 3/4 sleeves whenever I shop for tops.  Who knew this was caused from my adrenal malfunction.  Stress is another factor that will cause your adrenals to go haywire.  And I do have Hashimoto’s disease so when I saw the pictures of the 4 different body types, I was amazed at how quick I could pick mine out.  The symptoms, trying to lose weight and only losing a certain amount before gaining it all back, exercising and seeing little results, restless sleep, fatigue, hair loss, acne (I started getting adult acne and went to a dermatologist).  Of all the doctors I have been seeing, not one pointed to my adrenal glands and yet all my symptoms point to this.

Here is the link to Dr. Berg’s body type:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s54ioy8f7ek

If you can’t get it through the link I posted, google Youtube and look for “What are the 4 body types” Dr. Berg.  This doctor is a wealth of information and if you are having the same problem I’m having, it may be helpful to you as it was for me.

Since yesterday I have ordered the Keto coffee with the Keto creamer, and two cookbooks.  I also ordered Dr. Berg’s supplements for Adrenal Health, you don’t have to do this but I felt I would give it a try.  This morning I am about to bake a Keto banana Walnut Bread, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’m excited to try this new way of eating and I’m hoping once my supplements get here, I will be on my way to a renewed, healthy body.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  This morning I weighed in again at 189, I lost 2 lbs since yesterday but then again, it’s been a yoyo, let’s see what happens on Keto!

Now I need to go make my Kale Shake!

Fit (Fat) for Life

 

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Before Breast Cancer age 40

I’ve been obsessing the last 2, no make that 14 years, of my life on my weight.  I don’t mean mildly, I mean severely.  I can just look at food and I gain weight.  I’m sure you are all saying, “yeah right” but once I tell you what I have been doing these last 14 years, maybe there is something to what I’m saying. Continue reading

Mental Health in America

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I wrote a post on the American Justice system a few months back after attending a court session on my nephew’s murder.  It is appalling! Well, unfortunately, I have now had experience with the Mental Health system in America.  After I tell you my story, you will most likely agree with me as to why we are having so many mass shootings in America.  Tell me you work for the Mental Health system in America and I will tell you to find a different job because you are helping no one.  Sorry to be so blunt but from my experience, it’s true.  It’s all about money.  They don’t care about the patient.  They just drug them up in hopes it will help or so they don’t have to deal with the patient.  So, the pharmaceutical company is making money as well, thanks to the mental health workers. Continue reading

Modern Day Slavery: Human Sex Trafficking Among Native American Women

This is the essay I did as a nonfiction piece not a creative nonfiction piece.

Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry, and though it affects nearly every community across our nation, it is commonplace here in the US and in Indian Country.  According to Lisa Brunner, Executive Director and CEO Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition, who testified in front of Congress, “Native women experience violent victimization at a higher rate than any other US population.  More than 1 in 3 Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime; more than 6 in 10 will be physically assaulted. Native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average” (Brunner 2016).  According to a new report published in May 2016 from the National Institute of Justice, “Among American Indian and Alaska Native women, 56.1 percent have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime and 14.4 percent have experienced it in the past year. Among American Indian and Alaska Native victims, 96 percent of women and 89 percent of men have experienced sexual violence by an interracial perpetrator” (Research Report p 11).

Prior to colonial contact, violence against Native women was very rare.  In fact, women were acknowledged to be sacred and revered members of their communities. However, the long-term impacts of government actions which caused widespread poverty, low educational attainment, high rates of community and interpersonal violence, high rates of alcohol-related deaths and suicide, poor physical health, and corroded family and community relations.  The U.S. government outlawed gatherings for ceremonies and it wasn’t until 1978 that American Indians were allowed to fully practice their traditional religions. All of which the U.S. government has never acknowledged, never apologized for, or attempted to compensate for its treatment of American Indians.

From the mid-1500s when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto wrote in his journal how he and his men had captured Appalachee women in Florida “for their foul use and lewdness” (Galley 2002).  The fact that Native women would have sex with colonist that were connected to trade made them out to be tainted and mercenary (Fischer 2002). Because of these beliefs, Native women were raped and harassed by English surveying teams and the framework was set to justify the sexual exploitation of American Indian women who colonist believed to be sexually loose, mercenary and immoral having no regard for the norms of decent society. The U.S. Army, as immigrants moved westward, not only killed American Indian men in battle, but also slaughtered entire encampments of women, elders and children.  Referred to as “breeders”, American Indian women were raped, murdered, and sexually mutilated.

The atrocities continued throughout the generations.  In the 1850s, the U.S. government established and relocated American Indians to reservations for assimilation.  In 1879, the Bureau of Indian Affairs opened Carlisle Industrial School in Pennsylvania, which became the model for government-funded, Christian-oriented Indian boarding schools.  In its 39 years of operation, approximately 12,000 American Indian children attended (Anderson 2000).  According to the Dawes Allotment Acct in 1887, each reservations was broken up into 160 acre parcels which was allotted to individual heads of family, and it allowed the government to sell any unallotted land which resulted in 17 million acres of Indian land sold to companies or white men.  From 1950 to the 1970s, the U.S. government performed involuntary sterilization of Native women, approved of tribal termination and urban relocation efforts, and enforced large scale efforts into adopting Native children into white families.

What does all this have to do with today’s sex trafficking of Native American women?  Plenty.  History set the stage to what can be “described as “a perfect storm” of victimization, oppression, and poverty that makes Native American women vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation” (Shattered Hearts Report 2009).  According to the Trafficking Victim Protection Act (2002), “Trafficking involves sexual exploitation of persons, predominately women and girls, involving activities related to prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, and other commercial sexual services.  Victims are often forced through physical violence to engage in sex acts or perform slavery-like labor.  Such force includes rape and other forms of sexual abuse, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, psychological abuse, and coercion” (22). Most of these victims were sexually abused as kids.  Some young women are coerced into believing they are providing for their families.  All are poverty stricken and feel this is their only “career” choice.

Almost all the stories sound alike.  In the city of Duluth, a port city in Minnesota, many Native women, mothers and daughters alike, are driven into prostitution by poverty and homelessness.  Generations of Native women have sold themselves in order to survive.  There has been a large increase in the number of prostitutes since 2000, especially those who are underage.  Criminals know they are less likely to be arrested or prosecuted for trafficking and the overhead is far less than that required for selling drugs.  The internet has increased the demand for prostitutes with escort services, both online and by phone, which provides a somewhat legal means for prostitutes and buyers to connect.  The internet also aids the movement and coordination of prostitution.  Pimps coordinate meet-ups between the women and buyers at rural bars and strip clubs.  The police noted it seems to be growing in organization and sophistication (Pember 2012).

Between the significant lack of federal or state funding for helping domestically trafficked or prostituted women, and the distrust of law enforcement among Native girls and women many traffickers suffer no real consequences even if they agree to testify.  Lieutenant Scott Drewlo of the Duluth police notes, “As an example, “the big boat case” of 2000, in which a 14-year-old Native girl was sold to the crew of a ship by a gang in Duluth. According to Drewlo, organized crime in the form of gangs has played a large role in trafficking girls in and around Duluth for years. The girl was locked in a cabin on the boat for days while the crew raped her repeatedly. She managed to escape when the ship was in port in Cleveland and made her way back to Duluth, where she contacted police. In the end, however, she was too frightened to testify and disappeared. We have no way of knowing how many times this sort of thing has happened,” he says (Pember 2012).

Vednita Carter, founder of Breaking Free, a Minneapolis-based non-profit dedicated to helping women escape prostitution says “true choice is the ability to change your mind and leave a situation, however, you can’t just walk away from prostitution.  Once you’ve been involved so many things have happened that prevent you from leaving. I like to call it New Age Slavery.  At some point, their spirits fall down and they see that they are indeed victims” (2)  She claims initially some glamorize the life and speak fondly of the attention from men, wearing fancy clothes, going out to eat, staying in nice hotels.  “I tell them that’s not prostitution.  I ask them how they felt when a stranger ordered them to their knees and demanded they open their mouths. Sometimes they being to cry,” Carter said.  It is then they come to realize they’ve been hurt, things have happened to them that they never expected to happen.  A man can do anything he wants to a prostitute; “the women who come to us are broken” said Carter.

Now that sex trafficking is beginning to get the attention of federal, state, and tribal health and social service agencies, they are struggling to create meaningful ways to serve sex trafficking victims. The stringent barriers created though are causing problems.  Some services are requiring adult victims to cooperate with law enforcement to receive services.  Because some victims won’t cooperate, they are turned away.  Minors, on the other hand, are not required to work with law enforcement, but are encouraged to do so.  The first and only shelter designated to serve Native American sex trafficking victims has recently been funded by the Department of Justice.  Located on the Crow Creek Reservation, Pathfinders, as it’s called, is due to open later this year and will offer long-term housing for survivors as well as mental health, job training, and spiritual support services.

The question arises, would sex trafficking decrease if prostitution was made legal? The Nordic Model, also known as the Sex Buyer Law, decriminalizes all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them exit, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offense, in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking.  It was pioneered in Sweden after extensive research and has been adopted by countries such as Canada, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand. The UK is currently looking into implementing the Nordic Model.  Has it worked? According to the countries that have criminalized sex buyers, such as Sweden, have seen a significant drop in sex trafficking per capita than Denmark and Germany where buying sex is legal.  Street prostitution has halved and the Swedish government determined that this is not because prostitution has moved inside.

Native American women experience violence, rape, physical assault, and murder in the United States at a higher rate than any other population.  This outrage alone should make people stand up and take notice. Prior to colonization, violence against Native American women was rare, however the long-term impacts of government actions caused widespread poverty, high rates of alcoholism and drug use, and low educational attainment throughout the generations of the Indian nations.  History set the stage for the perfect storm and Native American women became vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.  Because of poverty and homelessness, mothers and daughters alike have turned to prostitution in order to survive.  Thanks to the dedication of many organizations like “Breaking Free” and funding from the Justice Department, giving these women a choice to end their life of prostitution with shelter, education, job training, and spiritual support, there may be hope for some of these women.  Gaining trust in law enforcement and providing safe access to those who decide to go after their perpetrators remains a huge problem in helping victims.  Some think adopting the Nordic Model will decrease sex trafficking everywhere. Awareness is key to the start of the solution.  We must, as a nation, end poverty; we must, as a nation, end homelessness; we must, as a nation, embrace our brothers and sisters with compassion and understanding. For without our help, this crime on women will never go away.

References

Anderson S, (2000). On sacred ground: commemorating survival and loss at the Carlisle Indian School, Central Pennsylvania Magazine (May edition).

Brunner, Lisa (2016). Executive Director and CEO Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition. Personal Interview. 16 Sept. 2016. Print.

Carter, Vednita. (2015). Founder and President of Breaking Free

Fischer K, (2002). Suspect relations: Sex, race, and resistance in colonial North Carolina, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 56

Gallay A, (2002). The Indian slave trade: The rise of the English empire in the American South, 1670-1717. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 34.

Pember, Mary Annette. (2012). “Native Girls are being Exploited and Destroyed at an Alarming Rate”. Indian Country Today Media Network. 16 August 2012. Web.

“The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of American Indian Women and Girls in Minnesota”. Shattered Hearts. Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. August 2009.

 

American Justice System

courtroom

Last May my nephew was murdered in a home invasion which was done by the RBC gang in Denver, CO.  Out of the 14 gang members responsible, all have been caught and the majority of them were juveniles at the time of the crime.  One juvenile is in California, where, after killing my nephew, he traveled from Denver to Torrance and proceeded to break into a little old ladies home, beat her and robbed her house.  Her neighbor though saw a strange vehicle parked in front of her home and called the police.  Lucky for her.  This guy is a killer and I can guarantee he would have killed this little old lady before leaving her to identify him.

When the police arrived at her home, they caught one guy who had tried to run away the other one was hiding in the attic of her garage.  If the canine unit had not been called in, I fear he would have gotten away.  The dog found him and notified his handler.  He was quickly arrested.  But because he was only 17, California news was not able to show his face.  That wasn’t the case in Colorado.  His face was plastered all over the news because he was wanted for first degree murder.  A young black male with long dread locks and blue eyes.  Already a career criminal, he is still being held in Los Angeles to face his crimes there, hopefully, he will be charged as an adult and then Colorado will get him to face murder charges here.

As I sat in court today listening to the judge and the taxpayer paid defense attorneys, I was astonished at how little I actually knew about the American justice system.  What a racket!  And we are paying for it.  We are paying for these criminals to use the system to benefit themselves.  Out of all the cases I heard from 830 am until 1130 am, 3 white guys were charged with probation violations, drugs (meth), resisting arrest and the rest of the criminals were black or Mexican, drugs and probation violations for who knows what.  One young Latina girl was in for probation violation.  Apparently, she pissed dirty.  The judge sitting on the bench was extremely kind to all the inmates.  He greeted each one pleasantly and would then proceed to go over their case and why they were once again standing in front of him.

This young girl had been given probation back in April 2017 for drugs.  She was ordered to take drug rehab classes and pay some fines.  She did neither.  In fact, when her probation officer gave her a pee test, she failed it.  Her lawyer continually made excuses for her.  She had had a job at McDonald’s but got fired because she called in sick (ahhh, that doesn’t happen if you call in sick once.) She had been searching for other employment to no avail, according to her attorney and this was the reason she wasn’t able to pay for her fines.  Oh, and she had just found out she was pregnant so the probability of her using drugs during her pregnancy was not going to happen.  (Really?)

The judge was a wise man, which is why he was sitting on the bench.  He spoke to her kindly.  He let her know he had been very lenient with her back in April, he had given her 2 years probation, some fines to pay (total of $500), and required her to take some drug rehab classes.  She violated her probation, hadn’t paid but $60 towards her fines, and she was using drugs again.  He didn’t believe her when she told him if he put her in jail, it would hinder her finding a job and getting her fines paid.  He didn’t buy it.  He started her probation all over again from today (2 years), her fines were $600, and now, since she didn’t seem to be learning her lesson, he gave her 45 days in jail.  The officer came up and cuffed her hands behind her back and took her away as tears rolled down her face.

A shocking revelation was seeing the way some of these girls were dressed like hookers!  They were laughing and joking in the hallways.  One girl was wearing a pair of jeans, if you could call them jeans, the holes were so large there was barely any material on her legs, with thigh high black suede heel boots and a white sweater.  I looked at the victim advocate who was there and said, you know, when I was growing up, I was taught to always look and dress professionally.  She turned to me and said, well, they’re probably going to get to see their man. To which my husband said, well, maybe they are dressed for their profession, prostitution.  I did a piece on poverty once, thinking this was why there were so many Mexican and Black men in prison, but to see how these young girls were dressed today had nothing to do with poverty and everything to do with upbringing.

Another criminal couldn’t speak a lick of English and was from some place in Africa. I have no idea what language he spoke but they had to call someone on the phone to translate what the judge was saying to him and what he was saying to the judge.  When he left the court room, I wanted so badly to run after him calling “Sir? Sir?” to see if he would turn around.  If you can’t speak English and you’re in this country committing crimes no matter what that crime is, you need to leave.  Don’t waste the American taxpayers money on him, send him home.

Two of the dirt bags that took part in robbing and taking my nephew’s life were up for arraignment, which is why we were in court, mostly to support my husband’s sister and husband.  After hearing stories about how the defendants families would show up in the court room in previous hearings taunting my sister in law and husband, we felt we needed to show them support and maybe knock a few teeth out in the hallway if they did it while we were there.  Surprisingly, when they did see us, they didn’t say one word.

Both men plead not guilty, which understandably, they want to waste more taxpayer money even though strong evidence, fingerprints and blood, as well as GPS monitors, place them at the robbery/murder.  They are in jail with no bond, and both came out with smug looks on their faces.  Glancing over at us, smiling, but guess who will be smiling at the end of all this when they are found guilty and spending years behind bars. In fact, when that verdict is read, I will be standing and clapping my hands.

One thing I learned, and I’m sure you didn’t know this either, unless you’re in law enforcement, when a convict is wearing a GPS tracker, they can go wherever the hell they want to go.  Now it depends on the reason they are wearing a tracker and what the judge rules for that tracker, but these little gang member, career criminals were able to roam the entire metro area without 24/7 monitoring.  That’s right.  Here’s another false sense of security for the general public.  We are not safe from these pieces of shits.  The only good thing about the tracker is it places them at the scene of the crime.  However, it didn’t stop them from robbing not only my sister in law’s house, but 7 other houses that night.  It didn’t stop them from having a handgun and shooting my nephew or shooting a 12 year old lab in the face.  It didn’t stop them from stealing a car. Nope.  But it did help the police find these asshats sooner than later, after the damage was done.

The American justice system is a very long and frustrating process.  They tell me it’s because they don’t want to convict anyone who may be innocent.  Seriously? Then how come innocent people have gone to jail? By the looks of these people, none of them were innocent and no amount of jail time or probation time or fines will make them turn a corner or see the light.  No, I actually prefer the justice system of the old West, or China even.  Hang ’em high.  Eye for an eye.  Am I cynical?  You betcha.   If you don’t believe me, try sitting in a court room and watch and listen.  I have no doubt in my mind, you will walk away shaking your head just like I did.  This isn’t poverty at work, it’s a lack of disregard for your fellow man and the unending cycle of always wanting or deserving of a hand out.