According to the latest Alaska Victimization Survey conducted in 2020, it was estimated that 57% of women reported experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or both during their lifetime. This statistic shocks me because not only do I know that I have been affected, but it means so many others have been too. Having this lived experience comes with the understanding that the impacts from this aren’t just a one-time event but can cause lifelong aftereffects.
For those who haven’t heard of Amalia Monreal, she has been the creator and facilitator for “Yéil Koowú Shaawát” (The Raven-tailed Women) program. The program is a holistic family-focused, culturally based counseling/treatment model for addressing the complex issues of domestic violence, abuse, unresolved grief, historical, and intergenerational and related traumas.
I was invited to join the group in March 2020 and attended my first group right before everything got shut down for the pandemic. For the ensuing two years, this group was the support system that I needed to heal and navigate my changed circumstances. The work was intense and not everyone in the group was ready to finish all the phases on the first time. But the ones of us who did are all changed for the better from it. I still feel the effects of post-traumatic stress, but I have the resources and supports around me to help me along.
Amalia has created an incredible program that makes it possible for women to move forward and thrive. The curriculum is an empowerment model, encouraging women to become co-facilitators after completing all three phases for two consecutive years. Though I am sad that she is retiring, I know the group is in good hands.
I am incredibly grateful to Amalia for showing that healing and resilience is possible. I am now hopeful that long-rooted cycles of family violence can be broken through these healing journeys. Yéil Koowú Shaawáthas been formally piloted, evaluated, and is now publicly available for export through the Center for Native Child and Family Resilience, find out more online at https://cncfr.jbsinternational.com/tlingit_haida.
• Supanika Ordóñez is is an alum of the Yéil Koowú Shaawát program, mother of two and member of ASEA’s Womans Issues Committee and Juneau Central Labor Council.