Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
Cante waste nape ciyuzapi ye! Anpao Mnibojan de miye. Wasicu ia Misty Thomas emakiyapi. Damakota. Santee, NE hematanhan. Social Services Director hemaca.
(Hello my relatives. I shake your hand with a good heart. My Dakota name is Misty Dawn. My English name is Misty Thomas. I am Dakota and I am from Santee Nebraska. I am the Director of Social Services for the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska.)
I swore to myself that I would never get involved in a relationship that was violent or controlling, but once I got in, I couldn’t get out. I made that promise to myself because of the violence that my mother endured during a time when domestic violence was not a police issue, and so they didn’t get involved. She had nobody to protect her and lived 1,000s of miles away from her home, her family, and her support. It is still really difficult to talk about and it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I was in that type of relationship. Many people still do not know what I have gone through. There is always that question that you ask yourself of “why me” and the best conclusion I could come up with was- I went through what I went through so that I can give a voice to those that cannot find it. I can help those that need it because I understand.
I don’t feel that my story is unique in any way. In the work that I do, I have learned that there are many beautiful women and men that have amazing stories of survival. It is the driving force to make life better and to help those in need. Not just women, but the children, and the men involved. Change is possible and it is possible to change a bad situation, we all have the power within and it is up to each and every one of us to find that power, heal our spirit, and move forward! That goes for men and women. I believe that a majority of men do not choose to be controlling and violent, somewhere they learned and they can unlearn it.
It has been my honor and pleasure to be able to work for my tribe in this capacity and to be able to work on a variety of projects to help our people and others that we come in contact with. The Otokahe Teca Tipi (New Beginnings House) is open to our tribal members, Natives from other tribes, and non-Natives, basically all victims of domestic violence and their children. We hope to be able to provide an environment that promotes healing and wellness.
Misty Thomas is a member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska and a descendant of the Tlingit of Alaska. She has been the Director of the Dakota Tiwahe Service Unit (DTSU), the Social Services Department for the Santee Sioux Nation for over 5 years.