2018-06-07 / Voices

Sexual Harassment is Against the Law


Lakota women have always been considered sacred beings. Lakota women are the life givers of our Oyate. The concept of women as sacred is rooted in the coming of Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman).

The story of Pte San Win is about the spiritual maiden who appeared to two men. As the men stood in awe of Pte San Win in all her sacred beauty and power, one of them had an inappropriate thought about her. Yet, she allowed him to approach her. When he got close to her, he was engulfed in a cloud. When the cloud cleared, Pte San Win remained untouched while all that was left of the man was a pile of bones. He perished because of his improper thought directed at Pte San Win. This was the first lesson in the sacredness of Lakota women in our society.

In April, I attended a wacipi at the Women’s Prison in Pierre, SD. Several other relatives attended this cultural event to show support for our women who are currently living in the facility. Despite their conditions, many of our Lakota women are making the choice to better themselves. That is, many of the women are completing their GED studies, which will allow them more opportunity when they rejoin society.

Another example is that many of our women have learned to sing wacipi and ceremony songs. It made me proud to see Lakota women singing those powerful songs. I shook hands with many of them and encouraged them to continue learning more songs.

Our people who’ve visited the facility in Pierre have seen the large zero-tolerance sign posted near the check in window.

The zero-tolerance policy means “The South Dakota Department of Corrections (SDDOC) has enacted policies to establish a zero-tolerance of sexual abuse and sexual harassment in all of its facilities and to ensure that all allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment are referred for investigation.” https://

These policies were created to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The PREA was enacted by Congress in September 2003. Yet, many men and women still suffer sexual harassment and sexual assault while incarcerated. This is just more proof that the laws we have don’t really work the way they are supposed to.

Our Lakota women living in the facility in Pierre, SD are suffering sexual harassment and many of the staff are in denial about what is happening. I realize our people are incarcerated because of the choices they made. Still, they should not have to suffer inappropriate behavior and remarks from employees on the state payroll.

Oftentimes, when these sexual harassment incidents are reported, the staff denies they are happening. The staff will say to the inmates that it’s their word against the women who live there. We aren’t allowed inside prisons and jails to see what is really going on, so the staff can say whatever they want and get away with it.

Even though our women have to live in Pierre for a certain time, they should not suffer the perverted behavior of the staff. In some instances, staff members continuously terrorize the women in order to write them up for infractions they were provoked into doing or saying. This isn’t right.

The prison systems are corrupt. We can help by writing letters to the higher-ups who oversee these facilities. We can also talk to our elected officials in Pierre and ask them to conduct an investigation.

The women’s prison will soon have a new warden. It’s my hope that the incoming warden will take the inmate reports of sexual harassment seriously. We’re all responsible to ensure our women are safe, no matter where they live.

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