At 2 p.m. last Thursday, things came to a halt in Rosebud, South Dakota. The tribal government was closed. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center was as well. And in many places across the country, and around the world, people paused, remembered and paid tribute to the life and work of Tillie Black Bear, widely recognized as the grandmother of the domestic violence movement.
A mother, grandmother, and auntie or friend to all who met her more than once, Tillie, with her visionary leadership, helped pave the way for the modern domestic violence movement. From her founding of the White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society—the first women’s shelter on an Indian reservation—the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and most recently, in 2011, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Tillie quietly, yet forcefully led the movement forward in her dual quest to achieve the restoration of sovereignty for Native people, and safety for all survivors of violence.
Thank you, Tillie. For your friendship, and the examples of perseverance, vision, generosity and love that you provided for all your partners in the movement. We will remember you, and the lessons you taught always, as we strive to live up to your peerless example.
Travel well, Tillie: Sicangu Lakota, grandmother, mother, strong heart, unci, sister, auntie, friend, counselor, strategist, leader, mentor, visionary.