On March 1st, a team from the Turtle Mountain reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota traveled more than halfway across the US to participate in a 20-hour women’s self-defense course at IMPACT Boston. This is the first step in a collaboration designed to bring the IMPACT program to the Turtle Mountain reservation.
Empowerment self-defense training for the community of the Turtle Mountain reservation is greatly needed. According to the 2016 National Institute of Justice Report, 56% of Native women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. The high rates of sexual violence are closely interconnected with the likelihood of Native women going missing or being murdered, and on some reservations, they are murdered at more than ten times the national average. In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing Native women reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), compared to 5,712 total Native women cases reported in the United States. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as cases of missing Native women are often under-reported and the data has never been officially collected.
Shanda Poitra, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and one of the weekend’s trainees, explains that her goal is “...to teach our Native women how to recognize potential violence, set boundaries, use their voices, be assertive, and should it come to physical violence - possess the techniques to defend themselves. Having been trained to this extent, we feel an extreme responsibility to our people in teaching violence prevention. We believe we can see significant results in the high rates of violence and sexual assault in our community and state once our people have the tools to manage such vulnerable situations.”