Self Defense for Indigenous Peoples

Our research team (including co-PI Dr. Ashley Cole at OSU) is conducting a research study to better understand Indigenous college students’ wants and needs in self-defense programs to prevent rape and sexual assault. Indigenous people deserve sovereignty over their lands and their bodies, and we seek to conduct our research in a way that prioritizes the needs and goals of the Indigenous people who participate in our study. 

We are seeking to learn directly from Indigenous college students about what they want and need in sexual assault prevention programs. As you probably know, 4 out of 5 Indigenous women are affected by sexual assault, and Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to be killed compared to the average national murder rate. We consider these statistics a direct result of the historical and ongoing colonialism that diminishes Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty. Although many self-defense programs exist, few aim to prevent sexual assault specifically among Indigenous women. Existing programs rarely incorporate Indigenous cultural practices or account for historical and other forms of trauma that Indigenous young people have experienced. 

To be eligible to participate in this study, individuals must: 1) Self-identify as Indigenous, and 2) be enrolled in college within the last five years. Participants will complete a de-identified and confidential one-time, online questionnaire about mental health, trauma history, and wants and needs for sexual assault prevention programs. Participants will be compensated with a $10 Amazon gift card. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at the email listed below.

About The Team

RaeAnn E. Anderson, PhD (PI) 

Dr. RaeAnn E. Anderson, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of North Dakota (UND), heads the Anderson Sexual Violence Prevention Research Lab at UND. Dr. Anderson’s research is grounded in a social-justice paradigm that assumes violence affects marginalized populations the most. She has particular expertise in how sexual violence affects sexual minority individuals and is engaging in projects with Indigenous people. Her research centers around achieving a better understanding of both the mechanisms of sexual victimization and sexual perpetration to inform risk reduction and prevention programs, and the measurement of sexual violence constructs. 

Personally, RaeAnn is the descendant of Swedish farmers who immigrated to Central Kansas in the late 1800s. RaeAnn is the aunt to three Indigenous children, who are members/descendants of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Fish, Thunder clan and the White Cloud Nation. 

Ashley B. Cole, PhD (Co-PI) 

As a researcher and faculty member at OSU and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, I would like to offer the following land acknowledgement: “Oklahoma State University (OSU) sits on lands promised to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in exchange for their ancestral homelands during the 1830s removal period. Originating in the Great Lakes area and migrating south and west, the Iowa were placed by an 1883 Executive Order in the area just south of present-day Stillwater, which was established illegally by ‘boomers’ in 1884. Just prior to the April 22, 1889 land run, the first of seven official land runs, President Harrison proclaimed the lands ‘unassigned’ and open for settlement.” This land acknowledgement was authored by Dr. Rachel Jackson, who is an assistant professor of Native American Literatures and Rhetorics at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Cherokee Nation.  

Dr. Ashley B. Cole is an enrolled tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Cole is an affiliate member of the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and the Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City. 

Leslie Unger, MA (Project Coordinator) 

Leslie Unger is a first-year clinical psychology doctoral student at UND. She previously earned a master’s degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling from CUNY – John Jay College. Her master’s thesis examined dynamics among a group of sex-trafficked women and how the trafficker’s use of coercive control is extended into the women’s interactions with each other. Leslie has volunteered as a hospital emergency department advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and her research interests are centered on empowering historically marginalized groups.  

Cassidy Armstrong 

As a researcher and doctoral student at OSU and a member of the Mvskoke (Muscogee) Nation, I would like to offer the following land acknowledgement: “Oklahoma State University (OSU) sits on lands promised to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in exchange for their ancestral homelands during the 1830s removal period. Originating in the Great Lakes area and migrating south and west, the Iowa were placed by an 1883 Executive Order in the area just south of present-day Stillwater, which was established illegally by ‘boomers’ in 1884. Just prior to the April 22, 1889 land run, the first of seven official land runs, President Harrison proclaimed the lands ‘unassigned’ and open for settlement.” This land acknowledgement was authored by Dr. Rachel Jackson, who is an assistant professor of Native American Literatures and Rhetorics at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the Cherokee Nation. 

Cassidy Armstrong is an enrolled tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She is currently a first-year graduate student in the OSU Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. Her research interests include investigating the relationships between mental and physical health factors and health disparities, including substance use, exercise and eating patterns, historical trauma, and mindfulness among Indigenous populations and other underrepresented groups. 

Ashly Hanna 

Ashly Hanna is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She is a senior at the University of North Dakota majoring in American Indian Studies. She is also a McNair scholar. Her research interests include reducing recidivism rates in Native American communities and building an understanding to the public health crisis. Additionally, she was the only Indigenous student to be recruited on the UND’s task force to address diversity and inclusion on campus, where she voiced concerns and issues that Indigenous students face on campus and in the community and provided suggestions on how to better UND’s environment. She was also a member of various UND associations: American Indian Association (president), Native Americans into Criminal Justice (president), UND Indian Association (treasurer), and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (secretary).  

Savannah Pomani 

Han, Mitakuyapi, Anpetu de cante waste nape ciyuzapi. Savannah emakiyapi. Summit ed wati, Toka Nuwan hematahan, Pomani Tiospaye kin hematahan, Mihunkake hena Tonia Ka Gabriel Black Elk ewicakiyapi. Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Oyanke ed Omawapi. Damakota. Waniyetu Wikcemna numpa sum yamni. Hehana apekta.  

Hello, my relatives, today I great you with a healthy-hearted handshake. My name is Savannah Pomani, and I live in Summit, SD. I come from Enemy Swim District. My parents are Tonia and Gabriel Black Elk. I am enrolled at the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, and I am Dakota. I am twenty-three years old. I am a research lab assistant. Pidamaya (Thank you).