Meet our newest HerStory Partnership Coordinator, Morgan Bringswhite! Morgan is excited to be bringing the HerStory Campaign to girls of Rapid City, South Dakota and we’re absolutely delighted to have her as part of our HerStory team.
Morgan is a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In her youth, she was educated on the reservation as well as at public schools in Rapid City, South Dakota, which is the closest small city to the reservation at more than 80 miles away. There are also many Lakota people who live in Rapid City and whose children attend General Beadle Elementary, the school where Morgan runs HerStory programming.
General Beadle’s principal, Carey Davis, is extremely supportive of HerStory programs at the school, to strengthen local girls’ modern literacy and self-advocacy skills. She recognizes Morgan and her family as active, positive role models in the community who devote their time to helping youth overcome challenges and reach their goals. In Carey’s nine years at General Beadle, she has come to know and understand the unique needs of the families she serves. “We are a full-service community school,” she explains; meaning that on the school site there are free meals served and also a health clinic, a public library, and other services offered to help students, their families, and community members. “In our student body we have a large transient population, many of whom transition to and from rural Native American reservations as well as from school to school, often based on economic factors. Extracurricular programming such as clubs offered through the HerStory Campaign are important ways to engage students and encourage them to keep coming to school.”
Countrywide, Native Americans have a higher dropout rate than average; with only about 65% graduating from high school. In the State of South Dakota, Native students’ graduation rate is significantly lower than that, at less than 50%. And according to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,Native American girls have the highest rates of incarceration of any ethnic group.
Morgan and a few passionate local women whom she is now training to be HerStory mentors are setting out to make a difference in the lives of girls in their community, and they want to help turn those numbers around.
“I believe empowering our young women and girls to recognize their gifts that they have within themselves gives them the opportunity to utilize those gifts in their personal lives; with their peers and in their communities,” says Morgan.
Global GLOW’s founder & CEO Kylie Schuyler and HerStory team members from Global GLOW and LitWorld made a recent trip to South Dakota, where they had the opportunity to learn from Morgan about her Lakota cultural values and beliefs. She also talked about the traumas that the Lakota people have endured over generations that affect her community today. Morgan took the HerStory group around the Pine Ridge Reservation, introduced them to tribal members who earn a living making traditional art and jewelry such as quillwork and beading, and showed them the monument which stands at the historic site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, where hundreds of Native Americans were killed by US soldiers in 1890.
“As a tribal people, our health and our wellness depends upon our women. If they are healthy, then holistically so are we all,” says Morgan, “There is an old Cheyenne Grandmother’s proverb: ‘A nation is not conquered 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.’ Our history is still being written, and it is fundamental that we add our voices to the meaningful work that is being done.”
In Morgan’s voice:
“When you look back — and even presently — women are always on the front lines of civil liberties movements. This fact reaffirms that we are leaders. Although we may not see ourselves as such, or desire it, because what’s more important for some of us is having the opportunity to raise the next generation of leaders. We endure oppression; we’ve experienced suppression. Women’s innate gifts are forgiveness, nurturing, caring, loving, being compassionate, as well as being able to empathize. That is what we teach and offer the world. Women are the first to hold us and teach us; the first to guide us and offer us direction.
Like our ancestors before us, the future generations can look upon the part we played in history and know that it is with them in our hearts and minds that we embraced literacy as a tool to strengthen our sacred circles. May our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth facilitate development that betters this world.”
Global GLOW is excited and honored to support Morgan as she works to give positive and transformative experiences to girls in Rapid City through the HerStory Campaign. We look forward to amplifying their voices and helping them tell their stories.
Photos, L to R:
1 & 2: Morgan’s mother Hattie prepared a delicious lunch of Indian tacos and Wojapi with fry bread for team members from Global GLOW and LitWorld.
3: Morgan is known for making beautiful Lakota Star Quilts. She presented this one to Kylie. It will be proudly displayed at Global GLOW headquarters in Santa Ana, California.
4 & 5: Girls and Grandmothers working on telling their stories at General Beadle School.