Cangleska, Inc. was launched in 1987 to provide domestic violence prevention and intervention services to Oglala tribal families. The Oglala tribe is part of The Great Sioux Nation, sometimes referred to as the Lakota Nation, and is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Cangleska, Inc., which means 'Medicine Wheel' in Lakota, grew out of a meeting held by the tribe to discuss domestic violence. Community members began relating stories of women sleeping in cars and begging police to put them in jail so they could escape their husbands' beatings. Summing up the sentiment of those in attendance, one Tribal Counsel Representative asked: "When did we decide it was all right to sacrifice our daughters for our sons?" The meeting led to the development of a Spouse Abuse Code that was adopted by the tribal government. Cangleska, Inc. now provides a three-dimensional service framework: shelter, advocacy, and counseling for victims; police and other community trainings to raise awareness about the domestic violence; and rehabilitation for abusers.
The Cangleska, Inc. battered women's shelter has helped more than 650 women and children in the Oglala tribe escape their abusers. But the shelter goes far beyond simply putting a roof over the heads of terrified victims; advocates at the shelter help them obtain civil protective orders, while a staff attorney can fully represent victims in custody, divorce, and other civil family law matters. In addition to the provision of legal services, the advocates also assist the survivors with obtain housing, employment, child care, as well as registering for school and literacy programs.
The Cangleska, Inc.'s 12-week Offenders' Program is a comprehensive and culturally specific intervention geared towards Lakota men. Utilizing traditional ceremonies and spiritual language, the program provides batterers with the tools they need to redefine their masculinity and unlearn the pathologies that cause domestic violence. This court-ordered treatment program ultimately offers domestic abusers a chance to get back in touch with their Sioux culture and spirituality to help them rejoin their families in peace. One former batterer attests to the effectiveness of this approach to domestic abuser rehabilitation: "I see the difference in myself and how me being different has changed my relationship with my family. I like it and I don't want to loose what I've learned. I know now that being a Lakota man means I respect my wife, not only as my partner, but as a woman and a person."
Supplementing the Offenders Program is an intensive Domestic Offenders Probation Department which monitors the progress of 1,700 abusers on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Forty-five percent of domestic abusers on the probation rolls are repeat offenders, and Cangleska, Inc. refuses to turn its back on their spouses by assuming that batterers are reformed after going through the legal system. Monitoring of abusers on parole has become increasingly effective since Cangleska, Inc. has successfully conducted several 40-hour police training clinics. Officers have doubled domestic abuse arrests since Cangleska, Inc. reached out to them and provided in-depth training.
In traditional Oglala Sioux culture, women were honored and domestic violence was an unspeakable act. Men who abused their wives and children were ostracized and deemed incapable of leading their family and their tribe. But domestic violence increased in the Oglala tribe when Western influences, such as alcohol, were introduced. The initiation of Cangleska, Inc has drastically improved the safety and well-being of Oglala women, revolutionized the community attitude towards domestic violence, established a comprehensive Tribal Counsel domestic violence policy and instituted a rehabilitation precedent for batterers. Domestic Violence expert Sarah M. Buel, J.D., assesses Cangleska Inc. plainly: "There are simply no comparable approaches in the field nationally."