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Advocate Says ABQ Needs A Domestic Violence Shelter By And For Indigenous People

Marisa Demarco / KUNM
Marion Goodluck, president and founder of the American Indian Women's Center

Sometimes people who've experienced hardship are in a unique position to know what other folks in trouble need. That’s Marion Goodluck.

Every day, weekends, in the middle of the night—she thinks about and plans for the American Indian Women’s Center. It doesn’t exist yet, but she knows from her own lived experience that Albuquerque needs a domestic violence shelter made by and for indigenous people. Her organization is hoping to secure funding from the city and state for an all-nations center that’s welcoming, that feels like a home and a site for healing. 

KUNM spoke to Goodluck, who’s Diné, at her house, where it’s all coming together.

GOODLUCK: Native American population usually has the worst statistics in every aspect of life, from employment, income, suicide. And so it’s the same with domestic violence, as we’re trying to cover areas that include women and domestic violence that are homeless, who have attempted suicide, who have lost their children to the system—all because of domestic violence or starting with domestic violence.

KUNM: So you’re talking about different lengths of stay than what’s available now. How long are you thinking?

GOODLUCK: In the past, I’ve stated at the Barrett House. I’ve stayed at the S.A.F.E. House, which was a little longer. We want to at least start with letting the women with their children stay there two or three months, so that they can actually save up some money, start building an income and get their own home, under their name, so they’ll have more legal ability to have power.

KUNM: Do you think that there’s a problem right now with the shelters that do exist in Albuquerque for Native women who seek their services?

GOODLUCK: I’m afraid so. Currently there’s only S.A.F.E. House. That’s the only domestic violence shelter in Albuquerque. And so there’s something wrong with this picture. There’s half a million people here. There are homeless shelters, and those two situations are different. I understand that because I’ve been to both many times.

As far as the cultural aspects go, I stayed in a Native American domestic violence shelter in South Dakota, which provided me the herbs to pray with, eagle feather to pray with, all Native American staff who understood where I was coming from. I didn’t have to explain to them how Native American people live from Alaska all the way down to South America.

We’re not going to close the door to anyone. Whoever wants and needs a place to come to be safe, we will welcome them and try to help them.

KUNM: You stayed at a culturally appropriate domestic violence shelter outside of the state. Did that make it so you wanted to bring that here with you?

GOODLUCK: Absolutely. I just was so excited when I walked in and I saw all these Native people sitting at desks being hired as professionals. And so caring. They didn’t talk loud. They didn’t get in my face. I didn’t feel the pressure. It was that calmness that I saw in my father and my grandparents. It was the non-aggressive behavior. It was not the silence, but the quiet, gentle nature of their spirit that made me feel like I had come home.

KUNM: Do you think the lack of culturally appropriate services here in Albuquerque makes it sometimes so that people don’t reach out for the help that they need?

GOODLUCK: I think it’s called historical and cultural trauma. I didn’t reach out for a long time. And like I said, you know, I’m healing, and I’m 64. People don’t believe us because we’re Native. And they don’t understand that. They don’t even know that they’re doing it.

KUNM: What are some of the barriers that you face in making this center happen?

GOODLUCK: We have had a hard time with gaining volunteers and keeping them. It’s because of the domestic violence. Abusive men don’t want their wives, their girlfriends, their significant others where they have children, to participate in helping me. But they do tell me, you know, secretly, that they pray for what we’re trying to accomplish.

KUNM: Does it feel good to be working on an organization that is going to help other people who are going through things that you’ve been through in your life?

GOODLUCK: It keeps me going. It keeps me happy. And today, I feel like I’m truly trying to help. It’s heartfelt.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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