On March 23, Chris Stark, Babette Sandman, and Quintina Sonnie offered personal stories and conversation about finding their ways to trust and heal from deep trauma.
This launches a conversation circle we will continue, with interest from Changemakers Alliance members. To indicate your interest, add your email in comments field below (which will not be made public) and we will be in touch about next steps.
There are all sorts of ways to heal from trauma that are very effective, and each of us has our own way. We have our cultural ways as well….
There have been times in my life where I have said I trust absolutely no one, and then there are other times that I would recognize that there were people in my past that I trusted. … I now have a very healthy connection to the world. I know there are many bad things going on in this world, but I right now I feel generally safe and trusting of the world. For me, that was a long process of coming back [to Minnesota] and getting my Indian name — being terrified and excited at the same time. . … It was a long journey for me to become part of the Ojibwe community again.
At a very desperate at one point in my life, I didn’t understand what this life was about. A lot of pain, a lot of abuse. I really needed to make sense of this world, because it just made no sense to me. When I started connecting to the culture, one of the first things that amazed me was the East Direction being a new day, a new beginning, a second chance. I love that.
But it was the North Direction that really shocked me because what it says is there is a place for our pain and our sorrow in the north direction and if we allow ourselves to heal and go through that pain, and not stop it with drug or alcohol, we will find our strength and endurance and we will also find our gifts. That just amazed me that there is a place for this pain in this world.
I could not get out of these patterns — but I could trust the Creator, I could trust the spirits, and I could trust that if I took charge in my life and said I don’t want to live like this anymore, I want to change my life, which was a lot of work — but I wanted to live violence-free. I have been able to do that. I met somebody I have been married to for 33 years, a non-violent person. They hear what is our desire, what is in our heart, and they hear our vision for our life.
I did not trust myself — because I was always searching to fill some need. I realized that I was not listening to myself because I was just trying to get through the day. I was just trying to survive. [Then I realized] I do not need to be in survival mode anymore. I can sit back and know I am safe, I am secure. I can trust my intuition, I know what is best. On top of that, trust within myself overflows into trusting my community.
Chris Stark is a Native (Anishinaabe & Cherokee) award-winning writer, researcher, visual artist, and national and international speaker. Her second novel, “Carnival Lights,” is a Minnesota Book Awards Finalist. Her first novel, “Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation,” was a Lambda Literary Finalist. Her essays, poems, academic writing, and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications. Chris is a co-author of the ground-breaking research “Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota.” She consults with a variety of local and national organizations and teaches writing at a community college. She is a member of the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Taskforce.
Chris is a frequent contributor to Minnesota Women’s Press, who organized this Changemakers Alliance event. She read a short passage from “Carnival Lights,” which was excerpted in the October 2021 magazine.
Babette Sandman, who graduated from the American Indian Mental Health Training Project at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 1988 where she completed an internship with the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. Eventually, Babette returned to DAIP to work as a Domestic Abuse Advocate, Court Advocate and a facilitator of women’s groups for victims of domestic violence/sexual assault. She was giving back for the help she received when she was a battered woman. Babette also facilitated groups for women who use violence. She is an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation.
She read a short excerpt from her published story about surviving domestic violence, which was published in Thunderbird Review at Fond du Lac Tribal College.
Quintina Sonnie, a lived experience expert on domestic sexual exploitation and labor trafficking. She has been a national speaker at events like the Colorado State University Symposium for Human Trafficking and as a panel member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She works with women who have experienced trauma with self-healing modalities, and is a breathwork facilitator. She now lives her dream life in Ghana with her partner and dog.
She shared her personal story, which she is beginning to develop into a book.