Brave Heart Society: Reviving Traditional Society for Women & Girls

Since 1994, Running Strong has partnered with the Brave Heart Society on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota.  Brave Heart is a revived traditional society, free of federal funds with a focus on grassroots cultural foundations.  The Society, overseen by Kunsi or grandmothers, took the forefront in defending water by standing early against the KXL pipeline battle in 2012; then represented the women’s voice as water protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Standing Rock. At Standing Rock, Brave Hearts conducted decolonized leadership teaching to the Headsman of the Oceti Sakowin and the Women’s Council. They will continue in this role as the rebirth of the Oceti Sakowin continues for coming generations.

A national leader in the revival of Coming Age Ceremonies for adolescent women and men, 131 Brave Heart girls have gone through this rite of passage so important for healthy girl development.  Brave Heart hosted its 19th Coming of Age in July 2017.  Young men who have grown up in this Society began their own Coming of Age Men’s work in 2013.  Their movement to bring home Lacrosse (known as “shinny,” a traditional Lakota game) celebrated 7 years in June 2017 by hosting a regional camp for 7 reservations.

Thanks to Running Strong, the Society now has a large multi-purpose Lodge in Lake Andes, SD with 3 lots with flower and box gardens to promote food sovereignty on site.  The Lodge is a center of activity including language nests, trauma influenced care and healing, women’s viewpoints on sacred sites and a 4 week “regalia making” session to make Pow wow and ceremonial outfits that many local families cannot afford to make.  In March 2017, Brave Heart hosted its 13th Annual Waterlily Storytelling Institute; named after Yankton grandmother/anthropologist/author Ella Deloria. This Institute provides a traditional experience of 4 days of teaching of Dakota values and appropriate behavior intertwined into stories, which is how it was taught in old camp circles, and is missing severely today in communities. This annual event cooperates with area schools, serving hundreds of youth.

The guiding principles of Brave Heart are based on how traditional Native Societies served old camps in a decolonized way, with modern approaches integrated into a strong cultural base.

Learn more about Brave Heart Society’s programs here.

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