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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kind Hearted Woman: Documentary follows Sioux woman's struggle

Watch Kind Hearted Woman Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.
By Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun

GRAND FORKS - The Spirit Lake Nation's continuing efforts to deal with deficiencies in its child protection system is about to get another round of national exposure.

The PBS news program "Frontline" has produced a two-part documentary titled "Kind Hearted Woman" featuring Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother who lived on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.

The documentary follows her over three years, according to PBS, as she "struggles to raise her two children, further her education and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child."

The programs are to air April 1 and 2.

The tribe's problems, especially allegations of sexual abuse of children and failure of authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual predators, already have received considerable regional and national attention.

The exposure has been promoted, welcomed or at least tolerated by some at Spirit Lake who have been critical of responses so far by tribal government, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and FBI. Other tribal members have lamented the attention, however, arguing that it paints a false picture of conditions and efforts by the tribe to make improvements.

At a "town hall" meeting on the reservation Wednesday, organized by the BIA at the urging of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., several members of the tribe decried the "negative" focus of the attention. One man asked that news cameras be removed. Organizers declined to do that, saying the meeting had been set up and advertised as an open session.

Charboneau, who also uses the name Robin Poorbear, was among those who spoke at the Wednesday meeting. Along with several others, she challenged Mark Little Owl, hired by the tribe last summer as director of tribal social services.

Helping victims, raising awareness

The PBS documentary was done by filmmaker David Sutherland, who previously produced the documentary portraits "Country Boys" and "The Farmer's Wife."

"Kind Hearted Woman" opens with Charboneau walking home on the reservation after a 20-day stay at a rehabilitation center.

"Now I'm sober," she says, "and I'm really, really scared I'm going to start drinking again."

According to PBS, the two-part program will follow Charboneau through a custody battle with her ex-husband over her two children, her efforts to obtain a college degree and her hopes of becoming a social worker.

"When Robin's daughter reveals that her father has sexually abused her, echoing Robin's own childhood abuse, it ignites both emotional turmoil and a dramatic criminal trial in federal court," according to PBS.

(Anthony Charboneau was convicted in U.S. District Court in Fargo in 2009 of sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact of minors, according to court records. He was sentenced to almost four years in prison. He appealed the conviction, but his appeal was rejected in January by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Robin had lost custody of her children to the tribe, "a move Robin believes is the result of her ex-husband's connections to tribal leaders," according to PBS, but when her ex-husband is convicted she regains custody and moves to International Falls, Minn.

There, Robin works as a sexual-abuse educator, her daughter organizes a fundraiser for victims of domestic abuse, and the family participates in a walk to raise awareness.

"A march like this could never happen on the Spirit Lake Reservation," Robin says in the documentary, according to PBS, "because there, we just don't talk about abuse."

A spokesman for the tribe said Friday that tribal officials were not aware of the documentary.

A spokeswoman for PBS said the company has reported on the ongoing child protection issue at Spirit Lake, including a report on Wednesday's meeting, and that attempts have been made to speak with tribal officials but were unsuccessful.

The documentary is separate from that reporting, the spokeswoman said. "This doesn't fall under Frontline's typical investigative work," she said. It is rather a portrait, "one woman's journey."

For more on the documentary, visit

Please watch this one. It's vital we help parents who are struggling to keep and raise their own children.  More effort is needed to help all families, to keep them intact which is better than fostering and adopting children out to strangers...Trace

Watch" David Sutherland, Filmmaker
on PBS.

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Takeaway Podcast ICWA

What our Nations are up against!

What our Nations are up against!
Survivors, write your stories. Write your parents stories. Write the elders stories. Do not be swayed by the colonizers to keep quiet. Tribal Nations have their own way of keeping stories alive.... Trace

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Diane Tells His Name

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Indian Country is under attack. Native tribes and people are fighting hard for justice. There is need for legal assistance across Indian Country, and NARF is doing as much as we can. With your help, we have fought for 48 years and we continue to fight.

It is hard to understand the extent of the attacks on Indian Country. We are sending a short series of emails this month with a few examples of attacks that are happening across Indian Country and how we are standing firm for justice.

Today, we look at recent effort to undo laws put in place to protect Native American children and families. All children deserve to be raised by loving families and communities. In the 1970s, Congress realized that state agencies and courts were disproportionately removing American Indian and Alaska Native children from their families. Often these devastating removals were due to an inability or unwillingness to understand Native cultures, where family is defined broadly and raising children is a shared responsibility. To stop these destructive practices, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

After forty years, ICWA has proven to be largely successful and many states have passed their own ICWAs. This success, however, is now being challenged by large, well-financed opponents who are actively and aggressively seeking to undermine ICWA’s protections for Native children. We are seeing lawsuits across the United States that challenge ICWA’s protections. NARF is working with partners to defend the rights of Native children and families.

Indian Country is under attack. We need you. Please join the ranks of Modern Day Warriors. Please donate today to help Native people protect their rights.

where were you adopted?

where were you adopted?

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.