For generations, Indigenous people in the United States have faced violence in all of its forms, from physical to psychological. The cumulative nature of historical trauma, compounded by modern-day struggles, has created an environment in Indigenous communities that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable: Native children and youths, many of whom experience different forms of violence throughout their childhoods. Yet in the face of violence, Indigenous people have also shown great resilience.
Now, using funds from a National Institute of Justice grant, a new tribal-researcher partnership will work to examine the scope and forms of violence experienced by Native youth in the Great Plains and explore sources of resilience to this violence. Through the project, the research team aims to create programs that can leverage the sources of resilience that already exist in Indigenous communities — perhaps even helping to stop violence against youths at the source.
The partnership involves researchers from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and the University of South Dakota, together with leaders from the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, a large, multi-state tribal organization focused on ending all forms of violence experienced by Native women and families. Over 18 months, the research team aims to examine the factors that make youth and young adults susceptible to violence in Indigenous communities, and what can increase their resilience.
“There is a lot of knowledge about what youth face that rests within Native communities, and to spread awareness on these issues, we need research,” said Carmen O’Leary, Executive Director of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains.
The research team is comprised of O’Leary; Anna Kosloski, Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs at UCCS; and Bridget Diamond-Welch, Associate Professor of Family Medicine for the University of South Dakota. Funded with $150,000 from the National Institute of Justice, the research team will hold community meetings, workshops and stakeholder interviews across the Great Plains region to determine the ways in which young people are vulnerable to violence in their communities. The scope of the research will include tribes in Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Central to the research is the definition of violence, and the researchers emphasize that violence can take many forms. Direct, structural and cultural violence can magnify and compound upon each other to shape a young person’s life — in addition to the effects of colonization and historical trauma.
The research question itself arose from a project Kosloski, Diamond-Welch and their student research team, Abi Montgomery ’18 and Anna Doering, completed on the centuries-long phenomenon of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals. When the initial research sparked new questions, Kosloski, Diamond-Welch and O’Leary proposed a new partnership to examine the violence young people experience in Indigenous communities.
Kosloski hopes that the research will shed light on the resources and services that help to make young people resilient in the face of violence, and the ways in which they could be better supported.
“As researchers, we were inspired by the passion and commitment of [Carmen] O’Leary and the incredible work that she does across the Great Plains,” Kosloski said. “We want to be able to provide our skills to help support O’Leary in her important work through the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. This partnership will highlight the voices of local experts across the Great Plains Region, and we hope it will enhance effective services to support youth and their resilience to violence.”
To learn more about the research project, visit the National Institute of Justice website. To learn more about Kosloski’s work, visit the School of Public Affairs at UCCS. To learn more about the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, visit the organization website.
About the National Institute of Justice
The National Institute of Justice is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The NIJ is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. The NIJ invests in research across scientific disciplines to provide evidence-based knowledge to strengthen the justice system. Researchers, students, and justice professionals have the opportunity to apply for research and development funding through NIJ solicitations, fellowships, and challenges.
About the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains
The Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains, Reclaiming Our Sacredness, represents the rural, isolated tribes in a six-state area of the northern Great Plains. Active members are Native women who are either staff or volunteers of tribal government operated or community-based service programs offering services in domestic violence or sexual assault. Learn more about the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains online.
About the UCCS School of Public Affairs
The UCCS School of Public Affairs is one of the premier schools of public administration in the Rocky Mountain West. Its relevant and flexible programs prepare students for leadership in the public and nonprofit sectors, including criminal justice and social work. The School of Public Affairs offers both traditional and accelerated undergraduate and graduate programs, with options to earn dual degrees and graduate certificates. Learn more about the School of Public Affairs at UCCS.