Grandmother Faith Spotted Eagle is on a mission to protect and honor the sacred. She has fought tirelessly to preserve the waters and the culture of her people. She is a co-founder of The Brave Heart Society, which is a traditional society that assists young women in “coming of age”. Because of government intervention, the boarding school system, and the breakdown of families due to poverty, the Dakota people lost much of their traditional knowledge. In 1994, the Brave Heart Society was formed by a community of grandmothers on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota. The Brave Heart grandmothers believe that culture is medicine, and the success of their many projects show the true strength of their people.
One of the Brave Heart Society’s greatest accomplishments has been the rehabilitation of the once forbidden and nearly lost Isnati Awica Dowanpi, or Coming of Age Ceremony for teenage girls. Prior to the 1978 American Indian Freedom of Religion Act, cultural practices such as the Isnati Coming of Age Ceremony for girls were forced underground if not completely extinguished. As one of the seven sacred rites of the Lakota, the purpose of Isnati is to teach young women to respect themselves, their roles and their bodies as developing women through the instruction of elder women.
Brave Heart’s annual Nagi Kicopi “Calling Back the Spirit” Healing Retreat, which aims to heal the traumas of abuse and addiction, the retreat focuses on healing through the rediscovery of cultural identity. One project the group works on is making traditional regalia, through beading and sewing, to teach Dakota girls to take pride in their heritage. The Brave Heart Society recently completed a 50 year strategic plan to help the organization accomplish its goals in the coming years. The society is currently expanding its programs to include teenage Dakota men through work with preserving sacred tribal sites, horsemanship, and bow building.
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