Women are the Backbone of our Communities

December 19, 2023

Written by Lynette Two-Bulls, Executive Director of Yellow Bird LifeWays

Yellow Bird LifeWays Center is a space of reconnection, reclamation, and a reminder of shared culture, language, and tradition. It is a place of mercy and restorative justice for generational trauma. It is a place for healing, ceremony, and prayer. Yellow Bird Lifeways is primarily women-led and is intergenerational as we lean on the matriarchs and young women in our community to guide and show us the way. We know that as we center women, our communities grow well and strong again. They are woven into the fabric of all our programs and remain to make up the majority of our participants.

As we draw closer to the winter solstice, Yellow Bird prepares for our 28th annual Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run. The run commemorates the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak from Fort Robinson, and remembers the history of forced relocation and attempted genocide of the Cheyenne people. In 1877 the United States forcibly removed hundreds of Cheyenne to a reservation in Oklahoma, where, beset by illness and starvation, they escaped with the intention to return home to Montana. The group split into two bands, one led by Chief Little Wolf who made it to Montana, and the other by Chief Dull Knife who took a route through Nebraska. The US Army caught and imprisoned Chief Dull Knife's band of 150 at the barracks at Fort Robinson, near Crawford, Nebraska. For weeks they were held without food, water, and heat in subzero temperatures, because they longed to return to the North and to escape the dire conditions they broke out on January 9th, 1879, and ran for their homelands in Montana. The soldiers immediately killed many Cheyenne and chased others for weeks, but Chief Dull Knife, his family, and a few survivors made it to Montana. This led to the creation of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

The 400-mile relay-style run commemorates the breakout and honors the sacrifice of ancestors who died so that Northern Cheyenne people could continue to live. For our youth and especially for our young women, the run signifies healing from generational trauma through empowerment & leadership, running in prayer, and stepping into unique gifts and internal light. Generational trauma deeply impacts our communities, and the run represents the generations past, present, and future. Our young women carry the Northern Cheyenne Flag adorned with the Eagle Plume and run lifting the flag to the sky as living proof that our women will survive, heal, and be well. The young men carry the Eagle Staff representing the prayers of the people.

As Yellow Bird enters its 28th year of life, we reflect on the Cheyenne proverb “A nation is not defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is finished, No matter how brave its warriors. Or how strong their weapons”. After 500 years of attempted erasure and genocide of our people, our women still stand, carrying on lifeways to the next generation. One of our young women from our 2023 Summer Land-Based Internship Program shared, “I feel like before I came here I just really didn’t have any hope to do anything. I was just doing whatever. Now I feel like I can see my potential. I just want to do something with my life. This really encouraged me. Everybody lifting each other up, all the support I’ve experienced. I’m excited. I don’t know what to do, but something”.

Our women are the foundation of our nation, and we know that when our women are well, our communities are well. We know that healing, health, and wellness for women in our community is multi-faceted, and as we look to the future we are excited to bring more opportunities like healing retreats, classes, and workshops in financial wellness, movement, traditional art, nutrition, cooking, and healthy eating, as well as healing through being with the land. We envision hosting gatherings with women from different communities to engage in collective healing and wellness, and offer spaces for them to care for themselves in all areas––mind, body, and spirit. We are excited to expand our programming of healing, health, and wellness and give back to the circle that sustains us all. We invite you to follow our journey on the Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run January 8-14, 2024, and our future programming on our social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram. For more information

YellowBird – Hope Video