JACKSON — Lynette Grey Bull says only 58 out of 574 tribes nationwide have a domestic violence shelter on their reservations. Yet Native American communities suffer domestic violence at rates 50 times greater than the national average.
In the next 30 to 45 days, Grey Bull plans to open an emergency shelter on the Wind River Reservation to help women affected by domestic assault, sexual violence and human trafficking.
According to the Department of Justice, 84.3% of Native American women have experienced violence. Fifty-six percent of Native women have experienced sexual violence. In the United States, murder is the third leading cause of death among Native women.
“The shelter is something I’ve been working on for some time,” said Grey Bull, who lives on the reservation and is a Northern Arapaho/Hunkpapa Lakota.
Grey Bull ran for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat in 2020. She was the first Native American to run for federal office in the state of Wyoming.
“There was another shelter at the Wind River Reservation that was not able to continue on, so I wanted to make sure that we had that resource to continue to be a support for our community,” she said.
She is the founder and director of Not Our Native Daughters, a 501©(3) nonprofit that focuses on alleviating human trafficking and missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“The goal is to have two separate shelter spaces on the reservation,” Grey Bull said. “Right now I’m staffing up.”
Along with shelter services for women and children, there will be a 24-hour crisis line and support services such as financial literacy programs and help for individuals to secure sustainable housing.
“We’ll have an individualized plan worked out for each person with their victim advocate mentor,” Grey Bull said.
In 2021, President Biden marked May 5 as National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. Last week the Riverton community marked the occasion with a march and rally.
Grey Bull said continuing to build this awareness is key. To date, Not Our Native Daughters has trained 7,000 law enforcement, medical and social worker professionals on the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Grey Bull said Teton County law enforcement has not yet received the training.
“I haven’t seen a wave of outside people who want to take notice and understand the movement,” Grey Bull said, although she did say there was an increase in people wanting to understand after the Gabby Petito murder case last fall.
Carving Our Future, an organization that empowers youth through access to snowboarding and skateboarding, funded kids from Grey Bull’s nonprofit to come up to Jackson for three weeks in March for recreation activities.
“She’s created an amazing organization that’s built around what are some of the worst issues in the nation that are right in our backyard,” said Talia Atkins, executive director of the organization. “There’s a lot of Native American appropriation in Jackson. It’s important that we support our neighbors and that Jackson is connected with these issues.”
For those interested, Grey Bull is accepting donations and said that “every dollar” donated through her website, Not Our Native Daughters, is going toward outfitting the shelter.
“It’s going to take everybody on deck for us to change these statistics,” Grey Bull said. “It’s only going to change if outsiders care.”