When I first met Jody, she was chained to the wall in the segregation unit. I was given permission to visit her to see if I could help her get enrolled in the Cheyenne Tribe. Her mother was a member, but Jody was unable to locate her. Getting birth certificates, death certificates, family trees, and tribal enrollment paperwork has its challenges when you are working with someone who can’t just pick up the phone and make their own calls. It took about six months to manage the process from start to finish, but the request went through and Jody became an official tribal member.
For the next two years, Jody faithfully attended sweat lodge ceremony and Red Lodge programming. She learned traditional songs and sang them with pride. She began reading up on her tribal history and developing an empowering sense of identity and belonging. Upon release, Jody reconnected with her mother, whom she hadn’t seen during the eight long years she was incarcerated, but her mother passed away six months later. It was devastating to learn that her mother had died at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. Red Lodge volunteers did what they could to comfort Jody and help her through one more life trauma.
Jody struggled with staying clean, and landed in jail three more times due to parole violations. The last jail sentence was rock bottom, and she called Red Lodge and asked for help. Red Lodge found her a scholarship to complete her hair design licensure requirements and a sponsor to pay for state testing, and Jody graduated after four months of a grueling schedule.
Jody is now the manager of a successful hair salon in NE Portland, where she shares a home with her significant other. Jody believes her most important accomplishment in life is her sobriety—she attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings and just earned her five-year coin. She said, “Thank you all for not giving up on me. I love my life and I am humbled to stand before all of you amazing people today and accept this symbol of hope and empowerment. I will not let you down