First Annual Indigenous Girls Rock Camp
Lifting Indigenous Voices
Clockwise from upper left: A participant plays the bass at the end-of-camp performance; Spirit of
a Woman’s Kelsey Harker (l-r), Danielle Yancey and Kelly Jackson; A still from a student-produced
video of the camp; The camp participants with Sproit of a Woman members; A participant gets
down on the drums
represented within the Madison Metropolitan School District. With the low number of American Indian students within the district, individual
students can feel very isolated, especially when the imagery and curriculum within the district doesn’t adequately reflect who they are.

As parents of American Indian students in the Madison area school, Danielle Yancey, a Menominee and Kelly Jackson, a Lac du Flambeau
Ojibwe, separately desired to do something for Indigenous girls and young women and went they met at the Wisconsin Department of
Transportation, where they both worked, about six years ago, they dreamed of what they could do for young Indigenous girls and young women
in general.

Yancey and Jackson decided to form Spirit of a Woman and held a fundraiser about a year ago to get the organization off the ground.

“We were really only planning to raise enough funds to start creating some awareness and maybe some support for the organization, to file to
become a non-profit and set up our website,” Jackson recalled. “We thought we would need $2,000 to get off the ground. We held the
fundraiser and actually raised over $14,000. We looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, we actually have to do this now.’ So one year ago, we
truly launched the organization and it is still in its development stages. And today we were able to deliver our first Indigenous Girls Rock Camp
Showcase.”

The first Showcase was held the weekend of February 4-5, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. each day, at Edgewood College. While the girls have their
Indigenous background in common, that did not endure that they would connect with each other.

“We did community building activities,” Jackson said. “We did a ton of ice breakers. We infused some kind of theater and improv as a way to
talk about different things and get to know each other. We have such a diverse group of girls. We had girls who represented 4-5 different tribal
communities. Even though that diversity is there, there are a lot of things where they said, ‘Oh yeah, I can connect with that.’ It was community
building.”

Part of the purpose of the two-day camp was to allow the girls to find their voices, ways to express themselves. And so music was a big part
of the camp.

“The camp was really a whirlwind,” Jackson emphasized. “As we mentioned earlier, Indigenous Girls Rock Camp is designed after a seven-
day girls’ music camp where they learn a new instrument. They write an original song and they perform it for a major music venue. We,
however, did that in two days. And so, we literally put our program on fast track. We really wanted to immerse the girls in an opportunity to get
to know one another through activities and leadership. And then we also threw them into instrument instruction. We had instructors — all
women —from the Madison music community come in and instruct the girls in electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboard and vocals. We
spent a lot of time in individual instruction and then we came together as a group and did some song writing. We got the girls to really think
about what their message was going to be. They put together lyrics for their song and their melody. The whole thing was done by them.”

For the girls who didn’t want to learn an instrument, lessons in digital media were offered.

“The digital media piece was really all about how we tell the story of IGRC and why we are here for two days and what we are working on,”
Yancey said. “And we put sound and imagery to that story. I think it also serves as a great opportunity to introduce young girls to technology
and the opportunities that exist in that whole media realm because not everyone is comfortable behind the microphone. But they can express
themselves in other ways. We wanted to make that a part of our camp. The other really cool part of the camp is we wanted to create space
where girls could be their whole selves and express their culture and their identity in the camp. In our curriculum, we wanted to introduce
Native American female artists and look at other instruments in our community and how can we infuse that into how we shape the way that we
feel about music and what we want to hear and what we want to say. We just want to be inclusive in who we are as Indigenous people and
how we make music.”

Yancey and Jackson feel strongly that Indigenous girls need help in developing their identities because the mainstream media is filled with so
many stereotypes and since they are not living near their tribal communities that they need proactive programming to help them mature and
grow.

“I think Indigenous women are really played in the media either in inappropriate ways or inaccurate ways,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to
really reshape that. I think you get the over-sexualized image of an Indigenous woman. We want to make sure that we radiate a positive image
of and message about Indigenous women. I think our girls struggle with that image and identity. So we want to give them the tools and the
support to really shape their own sense of self and do that through a sense of sisterhood and connection with one another in their environment
and their goals and let them shape their own perspectives. I think one of the service areas that we are trying to meet is just being available for
those sorts of opportunities and we can cultivate a more positive image of Indigenous girls. And I think right now, we are focusing on our
targeted audience of Indigenous communities. But Spirit of a Woman ultimately is and will be designed to help all women. We have these
targeted areas that we are working on right now because I am Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe and Danielle is Menominee and we really saw the
need in our communities that there weren’t these kinds of services available. But we definitely see the opportunity to expand in this mission.”

“I think the need we are trying to fill is really just to create space for Indigenous girls and women, especially in the Madison area where we are
a really small community,” Yancey added. “I think it creates a conduit for us to come together and mentor young girls through music and to use
that as a stepping stone to continue to support girls in their passage into adulthood and beyond. We want to create this network of women and
girls away from our tribal communities where we can do that. Ultimately, we would like to take Indigenous Girls Rock Camp and travel to other
tribal communities and offer this camp as well. But since we are working full-time and living in Madison and have families, it made sense for
us to start here in Madison.”

At the conclusion of the camp, the girls performed the music that they had created and showed the video that they had produced. It was
something that the girls — and Yancey and Jackson — could feel proud of. Both of them feel that this is just the beginning.

“I think what has been really amazing and beautiful is the response that we have received from our community here in Madison and beyond,”
Yancey said. “They support this. They see the value and benefit in it and want to contribute. We have people coming out asking how they can
volunteer and continue to create these spaces. There is a need and there is an opportunity. How can we make it happen?”

Spirit of a Woman is making it happen for Indigenous girls and beyond.
By Jonathan Gramling

While stereotypes present
American Indians as a unified,
almost one-dimensional
community, the fact is that there
are 562 federally-recognized
tribes with their own histories
and cultural traditions. And yet
there are common experiences
and cultural currents that bind,
however loosely at times,
together.

While there are 11 federally-
recognized tribes located in
Wisconsin, there are actually
approximately 44 tribes