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Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

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I recall clearly the year I turned fifty. I was amazed that the years had gone by so quickly, but I also found myself wondering what I would do with the second half of my life. I started thinking that I would like to go back to school to complete something I started many years earlier. As a younger woman I had attended a community college and received a certificate towards licensure as a psychiatric technician and had a para-professional career working in all aspects of mental health and doing a lot of volunteer work along the way. The main focus of my volunteer work was in the housing/homeless arena.

As I read the words above, I realize my life Journey has always been about healing of Self, and my healing gave birth to empathy and compassion. I share this journey with millions of sisters around the globe. As a small child (4yrs. or so), I was raped and molested; the sexual abuse continued until I was about nine years of age. No one in my family knew, or if they did, they pretended not to. Women who have been through this will understand how the course of one's life changes forever. Pieces of one's Spirit are ripped away and is left to start the search to reclaim those fragmented pieces of Spirit that make each of us "WHOLE" again. I walked through many dark places in my life to arrive at that place of feeling whole, some places so dark, I didn't think I would ever see or feel the sun on my skin again.

Harsh feelings of inferiortiy were companions for much of my earlier years, and I find I still need to work at cleaning the temple of my soul, and some days, I find I need dwell in the darkness for a time just to remind my self that I am safe, competent, and capable. I find I often need to grapple with these emotions most every time I start something new in my life...something I have never done before. I was frightened and feared rejection when I applied to and was accepted at a university where I finally did receive my undergraduate degree in psychology. I then started a master's program in non-profit management, but escaped after a year; something about that program just didn't resonate well with me, but I felt as though I had learned what I was meant to and let it go.

What I was meant to learn was the "dreaded computer". When I started back to school at fifty or so, I was surprised to attend my first class and have the professor ask for first night assignments to be turned in. I became totally discombobulated as I told him that I hadn't received any notice of a "first night assignment. He said it was on the university website and I had better learn about it as most classes were structured around it.

I went to the the school's computer lab, sat down at one, and stared at it for sometime, wondering how to "turn it on". A very kind woman, who worked in the bookstore and but was in the lab, came to my rescue. I told her that I had never worked on a computer before and didn't know what to do. She was my age and told me that not that long ago, she had been where I was. She worked with me and showed how to turn it on. The school's website was the homepage. She showed me where to find first night assignments and how to get into Word to write my papers. She was patient and kind and fearing that I was taking up too much of her time, I told her I had it and thanked her profusely and went to work. The second day of classes, I went directly to the computer lab early, and as I sat looking at the machine, I started to cry, knowing I didn't grasp much of what I had learned the previous day, had not saved my assignment, believing that the computer did that automatically and felt so inadequate that I thought about dropping out of school. But I didn't. Following the Lakota virtues of perseverance, and fortitude, I learned, and thanks to a student loan, went and purchased a home computer. I knew that if I were to continue to learn about the computer and the World Wide Web, which brings all of us closer to one another, I needed to work at it on a daily basis. I'm much better now, but the new social media sites remain a mystery to me. Oh I do have a facebook account, I am on twitter, linked in, I'm learning about google and their various programs...but I still have not learned how to utilize them effectively.

In the work I do on the Reservation, I know that many of the women have traveled, or continue to travel where I have been in many ways, but I can always recognize those who are determined to overcome any adversity that presents itself into their path. Many are too shy to ask for things as "frivolous" as learning basic computer skills, but when the opportunity presented itself, a few were willing to open their minds to it. The young matriarch of the family I work with now, has at least basic knowledge of it. An internet "cafe" was opened in Pine Ridge Village and it is always staffed by a couple of folks who can help out. I take her there and together, we are learning. Right now, we are trying to fundraise for her family's homestead project and the Fast Horse land is miles from any internet access, we would welcome any guidance in alternative ways to get internet services to their land. Concurrently I am trying my hand at grantwriting, as in this stage of homestead development, learning to navigate and get full access of what a computer offers is more of necessity, but we have amazed ourselves on occasion with our progress. I feel sort of like a trailblazer in a way...learning something new and then teaching her...and sometimes the roles may get reversed; however, we both continue to be stumped by social media. What we need is funding to get her home connected to the reservation internet services, new or used and reliable laptops or PC's, and finally, as many workshops as it takes to get us to feel comfortable where ever we may navigate on the web. The reservation has college "centers" in almost every community, but unless you are a paying student, there is not a lot of instruction available and paying for a computer class is not high on their priority list when there are children to feed and clothe.

Transportation to a community college center is difficult if not impossible for some. Most services on the reservation are few and far between and many families do not have a car. Those with the grandest of determination will walk the three to six mile to get to one of the centers.

The tools, resources, and trainings I would like to access are as mentioned above: new or rebuilt lap or desktops, instructors willing to come to the community for several weeks in the summer time to teach not only how to use the outer workings of computers, but can teach the basics of maintaining and restoring the computer. Pilamaye ksto na Wicosani to you and those you love. (translation: Thank you and may you and those you love Walk in Balance with the four aspects of Self: mental , physical, emotional, and Spiritual).

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »



Perseverance and fortitude! What a wonderful message. I'm so grateful to read about your courageous journey toward computer literacy. Inspirational.

Wishing you peace,


I very much appreciated reading your story about how you were able to get yourself to this point in your computer knowledge and education. It is a good reminder of what it takes for many of us to learn these skills that some think are a "given." They are not, and it takes time, effort and perseverance to learn them. What is even more inspiring about your story is your willingness to spread your knowledge to other women in your community, as you have experienced the sense of self-empowerment that this specific learning has brought to you.

You seem to be taking all the right steps to get this education into your community (i.e., writing grants, trying to recruit teachers). Have you been able to connect with other World Pulse community members who have been making similar efforts in their communities? It would be helpful to hear where they found support (financial and otherwise) and how they manifested such training programs in their communities.

My praise and respect are given to you for stepping into the role of leader in this area in your community. You are undoubtedly changing the lives of more women than you could ever have imagined. Please keep us updated on your progress so that we may continue to offer you our support!

Leslie Stoupas

earthturnstogold's picture


Leslie, I thank you deeply for the encouragement your response has given to me. I am fairly excited right now as I was awarded a "Bioneers" scholarship to attend a "Cultivating Women's Leadership" conference in Ben Lomond, California in the redwood forest. I am hoping that I can connect with several women who would be willing to help out with grantwriting or social media guidance. I need to raise at LEAST $40k for the summer build. Again, I thank you for the encouragement. Christinia

Wicosani is a Lakota prayer. Pronounced "wee-cho-zah-nee", it means to "Walk in balance with the four aspects of Self: physical, mental, emotional, and Spiritual; also to include the fe/male energies that dwell within each of us." This, I offer to you.

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Congratulations, Bioneer!

Congratulations on receiving the Bioneers scholarship. Indeed, you are helping to engineer this very important aspect of life: connection, communication and leadership. I am very excited for you! I have not written grants before, but I know there is a lot to them, However, if you need a proofreader, I would be glad to help! Just let me know if and when you do!

Leslie Stoupas

Greengirl's picture

Your journey....

You are a great woman with a story of perseverance and hope. Your determination is palpable and I am touched by the fact that you are all too willing to help others learn while you are still learning. Such a generous service to your community! Well done!

I really pray and hope that you find all the support you need to accomplish your laudable plans. Before I go, I would like to suggest that you also include Gender Based Violence tag to your post; because it is all too relevant in that regard. A must read too, for people who are looking out for related posts.

All the best ma'am!


Thank you for sharing, I am glad to learn from the very work you are doing for women. this is good
courage and good luck with your projects


louise pare's picture

Walking in Balance

Your story is very powerful, inspiring and "inspiriting" (a word I made up)! I lived in Bismarck and Mandan, ND for 13 years and became good friends with two native women who had stories similar to yours. They were also women of great fortitude and strength. They invited me to teach @ United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck which really opened my eyes to the challenges faced by native people.

I agree with Greengirl's comment about including the Gender Based Violence tag. The impact this has on a woman's self-esteem can not be understated and it figures in both her confidence in thinking she can learn to use internet technologies and the impact of doing so for her own empowerment.

I attended the Bioneers Conference two years ago and want to say CONGRATULATIONS on your scholarship. This is a powerful program and I feel certain that the connections you make there will support and advance YOUR dreams.

Thank you for your story and your work.

May Great Spirit continue to bless you into abundance and success!



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