Published on March 7, 2011 by Casey
Janet McCloud established her home and the surrounding 10 acres (40,000 m2) in Yelm, Washington as a retreat, naming it the Sapa Dawn Center, “Sapa” meaning grandfather, the name a tribute to Don McCloud, who died in April 1985. “The elders have said this is a spiritual place. For over 30 years, we’ve used this land to teach our traditional ways,” McCloud, an Indian elder herself, wrote in 1999. “When all is going crazy… our people can come back to the center to find the calming effect; to reconnect with their spiritual self.”
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Leaders of the American Indian Movement – Dennis Banks, Russell Means and others – came to Sapa Dawn and its sweat lodge before launching their 1973 takeover at Wounded Knee, S.D.
In August 1985, 300 women from many countries found their way to Sapa Dawn to talk about concerns they shared. “There was no motel in Yelm then,” recalls McCloud. “So we put up tepees. One woman said: `Where’s the motel?’ I said, `Here’s a key: tepee number one or tepee number two.’”
The women camped for five days, talking about social, economic and family problems troubling native people throughout the Western Hemisphere. That was the birth of what now is called the Indigenous Women’s Network, a coalition championing native women, families and tribal sovereignty from Chile to Canada, and which adopted McCloud as a founding mother.
Her uncle, Pete Henry, explained why McCloud’s grandmother gave her the Indian name, “Yet-Si-Blue,” meaning “the woman who talks.” “She had become a spokeswoman for Indian culture. That was the perfect name.”