Tunkan Inajiin Win
People Who Live at the Edge of the Great Forest
Faith Spotted Eagle is a mother, grandmother and matriarch who protects and defends the sacred. She was born into this role, having her entire community flooded by the United States Army Corp of Engineers in building the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River.
Faith descends from the Oceti/Peta Sakowin and is a fluent speaker of her Ihanktonwan Dakota language. In 1994, Faith joined other grandmothers to establish the Brave Heart Society. The mission is to call home the spirit of their culture.
One of the first things the Brave Heart Society revived is the coming-of-age ceremony for teenage girls. This beautiful ceremony was forbidden by the US government and nearly lost. As one of the seven sacred rites given to the people by White Buffalo Calf Woman, the purpose of this ceremony is to teach young women to respect themselves and their bodies through guidance by elder women relatives.
Today, more than 150 girls from across the Seven Council Fires have gone through this ceremony.
“In traditional Yankton Sioux culture,” says Faith, “everyone had a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and to help the families. In much the same way, we are doing the same thing today with the modern-day Brave Hearts – bringing back our people from emotional death.
Faith has long been a front-line activist leader in many on-going efforts to protect the sacred: including Standing Rock, the historic convergence of Indigenous water protectors and allies determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline that gained worldwide attention in 2016; the on-going Keystone XL Pipeline’s intrusion into her treaty territory; and the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Canada’s Tar Sands Project.
“It’s not about winning,” she says. “It’s about living.”
Please join me in celebrating Legacy Leader Faith Spotted Eagle.
You can’t take people to a place where you haven’t been. If you haven’t been to a healing place, you don’t know the path.
Faith shares her life work to restore a traditional woman’s society her grandmother told her about. Her initial efforts working with other Lakota grandmothers established the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Society, the first American Indian women’s shelter. Through years of supporting women and girls through trauma, Faith’s established the Brave Heart Society, bringing back ISNATI, the coming of age ceremony.
Faith Spotted Eagle—Speaking for the Land and Water
I grew up in the White Swan community, which was adjacent to the Missouri River, as did my grandmothers and others who grew up in the lakes ofMniSota. We were taught that the women were the caretakers of the water because we had the first medicine of water in our wombs when we had our babies; and we used it to heal, clean, and feed our families. My grandmother also told me that there were many women healers in our lands, as my grandmothers were because the native prairies and woods were their pharmacies that they used to take care of their babies and families. They were not put on pedestals as healers but called "Waapiya Winyan" or Women who help. Because of this, there are many women ceremony sites along the river. When I was 2 years old I not only lost the presence of my Ina or mother but also my home along the Missouri River with the coming of the Ft. Randall Dam, which killed our community. Because of this traumatic experience, I was borne into defending water.