Nikki | Hearts on the Ground | Post 2/3

When I first met Nikki she delivered a pretty wary cold-shoulder, while sitting in the dreary, clinical, conference room where she worked. The room was dominated by large tables clustered together. We sat a few seats apart, not quite across from each other, and not quite next to each other. She passionately talked, or rather preached, about judicial loopholes, explained Public Law 280 and blood quantum. We talked for an hour and a half, then she allowed me to take a picture of her as long as I didn’t show her face. And then I left.

I learned a lot and walked to my car grateful but aware that something was missing from our exchange. I knew she had wanted to say more, that there was more for me to understand, but I also knew it wasn’t my place to ask.

That evening she called me and asked if we could meet again the next day, at her house. She lived in a women's safe home at the time, I believe she said I was the first man allowed into that home. We sat first outside on her porch, and then inside in her living room. We talked about her life, her fears and her nightmares. We talked about perpetrators, cultures and dominant society. I saw her laugh and I saw her cry. She allowed me to take pictures of her.

Nikki has been abused multiple times by different perpetrators, not an uncommon reality among Native Americans. She deals with PTSD from her abuse and has battled weight problems stemming from her emotional and psychological battles. She is slow to trust and I will never forgot the suspicion, heavy in her eyes that first day. Now I see the Nikki that is full of life and laughter. She is determined and strong willed, always trying to improve and overcome and help those who have survived similar experiences through outreach and mentoring. Even in her dark hours, when triggers send her reeling inwards, I know her battle cry is strong.

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