'Invest in our women': 2 Indigenous women-led organizations get grants
October 06, 2023
The Women’s Foundation of Montana recently awarded $110,000 to eleven women-run Montana organizations — including two that are led by and serve Indigenous women.
Pretty Eaglewoman Resource Foundation, which primarily serves the Northern Cheyenne and Crow communities, and Yellow Bird Life Ways Center, which primarily serves the Northern Cheyenne community, each received a $10,000 grant to support operational costs.
Kylie Gursky, program officer for the Women’s Foundation of Montana, said of the 54 applications the women’s foundation received, these two Indigenous-led organizations stood out because “each organization centers the experience and strengths of women in their community.”
“We were drawn to how these organizations are organizing women and girls in their communities to connect and heal,” she added.
Lynette Two Bulls, executive director of Yellow Bird Life Ways Center, said when the organization began 27 years ago, it focused primarily on youth programming. The organization has since expanded, now promoting health, healing and wellness. Specifically, Yellow Bird Life Ways Center aims to help community members understand and heal from historical trauma and connect to traditional culture. Two Bulls said 90 people participated this year in the organization’s food sovereignty program, which promotes gardening, foraging and education. She said most participants were women, but after a few weeks, men and families joined too.
“We believe women are the foundation of our nations, of the home and of the community,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to be well, and it’s important for us to invest in our women to help them lead our people.”
Two Bulls said the $10,000 grant will be used for efforts to address historical trauma through programming, resources and education.
“We want to provide people with different opportunities to heal,” she said. “We want to empower people to heal, to grow, to help themselves. There’s a Cheyenne proverb that says, ‘Our nation is not defeated until the hearts of our women are on the ground,’ and I feel our women’s hearts are nowhere near the ground.”
Yolanda Fraser founded Pretty Eaglewoman Resource Foundation three years ago to bring awareness to her granddaughter’s death. Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, 18, was found dead in Hardin in August 2019. She is one of hundreds of Indigenous people who go missing or are killed each year.
In Kaysera's honor, Pretty Eaglewoman Resource Foundation advocates for and provides support to other Native families whose loved ones have gone missing or been killed.
“Until now, we’ve been helping, but just out of our own pockets,” said Fraser. “That really limits the extent of what we can do.”
Pretty Eaglewoman Resource Foundation has paid for two billboards between Billings and Hardin — both share statistics of the disparate number of missing and murdered Indigenous people in the region. The organization also hosts rallies and marches in local communities.
Fraser said the grant money will be instrumental in getting the word out about the organization’s work.
“We couldn’t afford a website,” she said. “We need an email service. We want to get a newsletter out to educate people, we want to make a pocket resource guide. When these incidents happen, the first moments are really critical. You have to figure out what to do, who to talk to, what resources you have and where you go to get more.”
Fraser said while the work can be emotionally exhausting and even triggering at times, she finds hope in the fact that awareness of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People epidemic is growing.
“We have a long way to go,” she said. “But it’s getting noticed. We provide a safe space for families to share their grief, strength, and courage.”