“Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment in Schools” – March 6, 2013

In the beginning of this presentation the panel tried to clarify what sexual harassment was or meant; there were a few people in the audience that seemed to think it meant more than or maybe less than what they explained.

According to their book: “Sexual Harassment is defined as unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with a student’s right to receive an equal education. Sexual assault, rape, dating violence, and other forms of sexual violence are considered extreme forms of sexual harassment and are subject to criminal prosecution.”

One of the many questions asked, that sparked my interest was: “How do you work with the parents?” Getting parents involved in anything, back home on the reservation can either be so easy as feeding them a meal and talking like friends OR it can be extremely difficult that even a meal won’t bring them in to discuss issues with their own children. The teacher who begin this program in her school, explained that it was easier getting the parents involved if everyone is aware of what is being said/done in the class itself. She is technology smart, she does her own blogs, students do their own blogs, everyone Tweets or Facebook’s about the class-keep it very public and open.

After a few more minutes of discussion amongst everyone, I was able to ask the question of how to bring it down to the grade school level, because it doesn’t always affect just or only grades 7-12. We discussed the activity from the “Hey Shorty” book or writing different incidences on an index card “Okay or NOT Okay” with my card’s example: Calling a girl a whore because she has many friends who are boys. With this we turn to our neighbors and discuss whether or not it’s OK. Of course the individuals I discussed this with, we agreed that it is NOT okay.

I believe that I could take this activity home to the reservation and work with students in the grade school, where sexual harassment is happening. I discussed this with the Principal of my daughters school and she is willing to bring this type of “help” into her school.

It looks like I have a project ahead of me and with other parents help I am sure we can accomplish this.

“How Can the Police Better Respond to Violence Against Women? The Case of Guatemala.” – March 4, 2013

I actually walked in about 15 minutes late & they were watching a video on “the Case of Guatemala”; because this video was in what sounded like spanish only, I had a hard time understanding what was said-exactly. (captions were too small to read from where I sat.) What I gathered was the fact that people were killed because they were involved in a domestic violence case (ie: man beating up woman) & those (men) bodies were buried in a mass grave-unknown location.

The story moved to the lack of police in that specific area or speedy response to domestic violence situations. It reminded me of how some reservations have that same problem. In talking with some of the Police Officers who work on Standing Rock, their biggest “gripe” is not having enough man power to cover the entire reservation. Especially those individuals needing their attention immediately, if a victim of domestic violence needs their help, they’re lucky if the Officer responds within 20 minutes and that’s if they live in town or if an Officer happens to be near by.

Their presentation also included the corruption in the Police system, that they wish to get society involved, have the women involved. Right now I can say Good Luck to them and hope that one day they do succeed.


Native Women’s Ministry 2013 Team – 57th UNCSW by Elsie Dennis

Many years ago, I heard at a Native gathering someone say what an honor it is for those of us present to be able to travel to such an event. He said when he is able to attend he thinks of the little, old woman who decided to tithe that Sunday instead of buying groceries or paying another bill. We are able to travel because of her tithe. So that we must remember to do and be our best when we are selected to travel on behalf of the Church.
I write this because our presence as Native women of the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is vital and critical work. The United Nations (UN) assists nations in working together to improve the lives of those in poverty, to end hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to support rights and freedoms of all people. The UN serves as a moral authority for its 193 member states. Each day the UN provides food to 90 million people in 73 countries and protects and promotes human rights on site and through some 80 treaties and declarations.
Various faith communities are part of the “civil society,” the non-governmental organizations (NGO) that work as advocates for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, such as for indigenous women who are victims of human trafficking, and to stop violence against women. Ecumenical Women (EW) is a coalition of NGOs devoted to opposing violence against women and girls world-wide by public awareness campaigns, education and improving the socio-economic conditions of families and individuals.
We go to share our stories as Indigenous women in The Episcopal Church, our work in exposing and repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. We go to hear the stories our sisters. Several women have come up to us and said, “Your story is my story. That happened to my people too in my country.” As our education and socio-economic well-being improves as Native people, we must reach out and share information with our Indigenous sisters and brothers throughout the world.(With appreciation to Lynnaia Main, Global Relations Officer, The Episcopal Church, who shared information from her “What is CSW and How Does It Relate to the UN” presentation with me.)


Sarah Eagle Heart

Sarah Eagle Heart is the Missioner for the Office of Indigenous Ministries with The Episcopal Church. Ms. Eagle Heart is a member of the Oglala (Lakota) Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Ms. Eagle Heart’s work includes all aspects of advocacy, including networking, resource development and ministry development. She is also the Team Leader for the Diversity and Ethnic Ministries Team of the Episcopal Church Center. Ms. Eagle Heart has attended United Nations Commission on the Status of Women since 2008, as a delegate of the Episcopal Church with the Anglican Consultative Council. She convenes the Anglican Council of Indigenous Women now focusing on Violence Against Women and Environmental Advocacy. Last year, she led an ecumenical delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues co-sponsoring an oral intervention with the World Council of Churches
and the Anglican Church of Canada during the theme: “Doctrine of Discovery”. The Episcopal Church was the first church “To Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery” in 2009.

Karen Kime (Australia)

The Venerable Karen Kime is the General Manager of Indigenous Services and Education for Anglicare across three dioceses in south eastern Australia. She is also a Birripa woman, whose people have a long heritage of living close to `country’. Her position within Anglicare focuses on community development and training. Karen is the first Indigenous woman to be made Archdeacon in
the Anglican Church of Australia; is a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council and the NSW Premier’s Council on homelessness. She is passionate about social justice for all people and works closely with Reconciliation Australia. Karen believes that the Church and associated organisations, have an important role to play in reconciliation within
her country.

Caressa James (United States)

Caressa M. James is a member of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma and is a recognized member of the Southern Cheyenne& Arapaho and Kiowa tribes of Oklahoma. Caressa  has been active within the Episcopal church’s office of Indigenous Ministries via the Native Missioner’s office for the past few years. She is a young Native women who is also very active within her Native American Community’s youth Health & Wellness programs, educating and mentoring the young Native community about mind, body and spiritual wellness. She plans to attend the Physician Assistant program  at the Univ. of Oklahoma and utilize her experience and education by practicing good quality medicine within the Native American communities with an influence in Women’s health.

Elsie Dennis (United States)

Elsie Dennis is a member of the Shuswap/Secwepemc First Nation/Cherokee, First Nations Committee member, Diocese of Olympia, Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism, past member; Dismantling Racism Training Team, Diocese of Olympia, member; Ethnic Ministries Ambassador, The Episcopal Church. Elsie is the former Public Information Services Manager for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, former Interim Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Olympia and former Interim Communications Coordinator for St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, and former administrative assistant
for the Multicultural Ministries office for the Diocese of Olympia. She also worked as a court-based advocate for the Victim Assistance Unit; King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Seattle and served as a Trustee on the Highline Community College Board of Trustees, Des Moines, Wash.

Melissa Skinner (United States)

Unavailable at the time of posting.

UNCSW NGO Forum Reflection
Anglican Council of Indigenous Women
Indigenous Ministries of The Episcopal Church
Elsie Dennis
March 3, 2012

Racism and its components of slavery and oppression can be traced to the Doctrine of Discovery. Three papal edicts in the 15th Century and a royal charter by King Henry VII provided Church sanction to the enslavement of the peoples of Africa and in the New World of the Americas, and the overall oppression to people of color.

The three edicts were:

“Dum Diversas” issued in 1452 by Pope Nicholas V that granted the King of Portugal to go to the western coast of Africa, and to “capture, vanquish and subdue the Saracens, pagans and other enemies of Christ, and put them into perpetual slavery and to take all their possessions and their property.”

“Romanus Pontifex” issued in 1455 also by Pope Nicholas V that extended to the Catholic nations of Europe dominion over discovered lands during the Age of Discovery. Along with sanctifying the seizure of non-Christian lands, it encouraged the enslavement of non-Christian native peoples in Africa and the New World.

“Inter Caetera” issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI declared that one Christian nation did not have the right to establish dominion over lands previously dominated by another Christian nation, thus creating the Law of Nations.

In 1496, King Henry VII granted a patent to John Cabot and his sons to possess all lands in the New World not previously discovered by Portugal or Spain. The Royal Charter of England reads in part:

“And that the before-mentioned John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered … “

The Doctrine of Discovery provided the mind-set that the First Peoples of the Americas were less than human and without souls. Because the Native people were not deemed to be Christians, the taking of their lands, and enslavement were approved by the Church.

Two modes of thinking prevailed in the 1800s, the first was to annihilate the First Peoples and massacres did occur as well as forced relocation that resulted in the deaths of thousands of First Peoples. A second approach seen as “the kinder method” was to remove Native children from their families to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

Richard H. Pratt, founder of Carlisle, United States:

“A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

Duncan Campbell Scott, Indian Affairs, Canada

“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that this country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone. That is my whole point. Our Object is to continue there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department and that is the whole object of this Bill.”  

In addition, assimilation was seen as more economical:

Carl Schurz, former Commissioner of Indian Affairs, concluded that it would cost a million dollars to kill an Indian in warfare, whereas it cost only $1,200 to school an Indian child for eight years.

Henry Teller, Secretary of the Interior, argued that it would cost $22 million to wage war against Indians over a ten-year period, but would cost less than a quarter of that amount to educate 30,000 children for a year.

There were 153 boarding schools in the United States and 120 residential schools in Canada. More than 100,000 Native children in the U.S. and 150,000 in Canada were affected. These figures do not take into account the ongoing impact of historical trauma.

Native children removed from their families endured psychological, emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse.

Captain Pratt created the policy of having the boarding schools be hundreds of miles away from the reservations so that children could not easily run away to their homes and families. Parents were forced to relinquish custody of their children or face up to six months in jail.

Due to cost cutting to keep expenses low up to 75 percent of the personnel at the boarding schools had no teaching background. Most often boys were taught menial farm labor, and girls were placed in the kitchen to learn cooking and other household chores.

Many children died in the boarding schools. Children were denied healthcare, beaten to death and many graves are unmarked near the boarding schools.

As a step toward healing, The Episcopal Church at its 2009 General Convention passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. We were the first denomination to do this. The Indigenous Ministries office through the leadership of Sarah Eagle Heart, Indigenous Missioner, has brought Asset-Based Community Development training to several Native communities to help identify individual and group gifts and abilities to solve problems as the grassroots level. In addition, White Bison, Inc., which provides traditional healing for victims of historical trauma due to boarding schools, was contacted by the Indigenous Ministries office and also has been visiting Native communities.

Since 2009, the Anglican Church in Canada (2010 General Synod), the Quaker Indian Committee (December 2009), the Unitarian Universalist (2010) and various Unitarian fellowships (2011), and recently in February 2012 the World Council of Churches have all passed resolutions or made statements repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.

Together, we can heal.







Elsie Dennis, Shuswap, Co-Chair, First Nations Committee, Diocese of Olympia

February 28, 2012:

March 22, 2012

My blog offering is a brief review of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Women and Indigenous Ministries presentation “Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery, a Call to Healing and Hope” during a Non-Government Organization (NGO) forum on Monday, February 27. Episcopal women as part of the Anglican Communion as well as women from other denominations and faith communities are participating at the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women world-wide annual gathering in New York City. This is my second year to attend this opportunity for training in grassroots advocacy.

Panel members (and fellow bloggers) included Nellie Adkins, Chickahominy, Co-chair of the Native American Ministry Committee for the Diocese of Virginia; Denyse Bergie, Eastern Shoshone from the Wind River reservation, undergraduate in civil engineering; Jasmine Hanakaulani o Kamamalu Bostock, Native Hawaiian, member of the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries, graduating in May 2012 in anthropology with a minor in literature from American University; Sarah Eagle Heart, Oglala Lakota, Indigenous Missioner for The Episcopal Church and team leader for Diversity, Social and Environmental ministries; Caressa James, Choctaw, Kiowa, Arapaho, full-time student majoring in community health and advanced practice nursing, and me, Elsie Dennis, Shuswap/Secwepemc, Co-chair of the First Nations Committee for the Diocese of Olympia.

Sarah opened the panel by providing background on The Episcopal Church’s work in Native ministry and introduced the video “The Episcopal Church Exposes the Doctrine of Discovery.” Jasmine, recently accepted to Yale Divinity School, provided an overview of several documents including the resolution passed at the 2009 General Convention to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, a similar resolution recently passed by the World Council of Churches, and “The Apology” in 1987 to Tribes in western Washington State by the Diocese of Olympia and other denominations. I then shared about the impacts of residential and boarding schools in Canada and the United States including the loss of language, culture and identity as well as physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse suffered by Native children.

Among the statistics are that in 1982 Native Americans had the highest high school dropout rate of any ethnic group, only 55 percent of American Indians completed high school (national average is 84.1 percent), and that First Nations children in Canada are more likely to go to jail than graduate from high school.

Nellie provided information on the Chickahominy people and Powhatan Confederacy, and how The Episcopal Church has helped preserve their heritage as well as the importance of Native women as leaders.

Denyse spoke about the Wind River reservation, a recently published article in the New York Times about life there, the impacts of water pollution on the health of the Arapaho people due to toxic debris from a local chemical plant, and how the people are healing themselves through participation in spiritual traditions and powwows, and Caressa, a descendant of David Pendleton Oakerhater, first Native American saint in The Episcopal Church, shared about growing up on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation area in Oklahoma.

Sarah finished the presentation by speaking about Indigenous Ministries work to support healing in Native communities including Asset-Based Community Development that assists individuals and groups identify their gifts to help form a response to problems. Indigenous Ministry is also working with White Bison, Inc., a traditional healing group gathering commitments in Native communities to be drug and alcohol free, and to walk the journey through the historical trauma caused by residential schools.

Many of those who attended the session expressed their gratitude. An Indigenous woman from the Philippines said that our stories were also the stories of her people. Another person said she came to the presentation by accident, but was very glad she did because she had been unaware of the Doctrine of Discovery and its impact. Several others expressed an interest in having the forum and information be presented again.

Elsie Dennis, Shuswap, Co-Chair, First Nations Committee, Diocese of Olympia

As Native people, we talk about seeing beauty, and being surrounded by beauty. We talk about beauty as if it is passive. But, I saw the beauty shared and told and expressed in the women present at the UNCSW. 


Beauty can be learned, given, and practiced. In one of the AWE Eucharists in the beginning of the week we heard stories from women who sometimes had to glean their beauty through hardship. Some had successes, and some were still in the mire, asking for prayers and for help. Though the cadences and accents in their voices were different, their message was the same: unity, strength, persistence, prayer, power. 


I have been blessed to go to the UNCSW before, and attend this year as well. Although I was not able to spend the whole week in attendance,even the brief time I had there re-ignited my flame and my passion for advocacy. The persistance and perseverance of some of these women in striving for justice in their communities was so awe-inspiring. 


I am born anew in God’s creation, and I am renewed in my passion to fight for justice. 

Reflections, Elsie Dennis

March 22, 2012

As a First Nations woman I was brought up to see that Creator is in everyone and
everything, and that to love God meant to respect the Earth, animals, plants, air,
water and all people. I grew up on a small family farm in Washington State, and
was pleased to see that this year’s theme for the 56th session of the United Nations
Commission on the Status of Women is “the empowerment of rural women and
their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”

The Native women’s delegation of six participating with Anglican Women’s
Empowerment included four young women: Sarah Eagle Heart, Oglala Lakota,
Indigenous Missioner for The Episcopal Church; Denyse Bergie, Eastern Shoshone,
civil engineering student; Jasmine Bostock, Native Hawaiian, who will graduate
in May 2012 with a BA in anthropology from American University; and Caressa
James, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kiowa, Arapaho, full-time student majoring
in Community Health and Advanced Practice Nursing. The other two members were
Nellie Adkins, Chickahominy, Co-chair of the Native American Ministry Committee
for the Diocese of Virginia and me, Elsie Dennis, Shuswap, Cherokee, Co-chair of
the First Nations Committee for the Diocese of Olympia.

The six of us served on the panel, “Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery, a Call to
Healing and Hope” on the first day of the NGO forum workshops. More than a
100 people attended our presentation to hear about the impact of the Doctrine of
Discovery, a series of papal edicts during the 15th century that sanctioned slavery
and the oppression of indigenous people in the Americas and throughout the world.

Christians are a people of stories. Jesus told stories to help us understand how we
should live in love, repentance, forgiveness, and transformation. Native people
are also a people of stories. The NGO forum provides a unique opportunity to hear
stories from women representatives throughout the Anglican Communion and the
world who come together to share our struggles, challenges, joys and triumphs.