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Verna Bartlett

Lesson 4 – The Warrior: Transforming Pain

Goal: Learn about how experiences of pain can be transformed into positive and healthy choices.

Activity: Listen to Verna Bartlett’s story and review the information and questions presented in this lesson for self-reflection.  Use these links to access the available resources with this lesson:  Verna Bartlett’s Bibliography, Anger Information Sheet, Feelings Resource Sheet, and the Historical Trauma Resource Sheet.

In the Hero’s Journey, the orphan takes a journey and wanders from place to place. During the wandering, the orphan meets various people and begins to develop relationships.  Caring and empathy develops.  It is with this support and in this caring the orphan takes on a cause that is greater than self.  We call it becoming the warrior.

Verna has become a warrior.  Through her life wandering she began to develop relationships of caring.  She took the initiative to be honest and begin healing.  Through his healing Verna recognized the importance of supporting and fighting abuse and violence to the children.

“I never lost my sanity. I never lost my sense of humor. I survived. Many times I went under, it’s like drowning, but I didn’t give up. And it wasn’t me, but I’ll say it now, “There but for the grace of God go I.” He has something he wants me to do. I do nothing. I’m no one. I’m nothing. But he has something for me to do, and I’ve got to do it; therefore, the education; therefore, speaking out on behalf of youth, and hopefully persuading the council and the police department to do something about the gangs.” Verna Bartlett

Let’s explore the experiences of Verna Bartlett and the ways that she was able to transform pain into strength.  It is through this transformation that Verna became a warrior protecting the children. Transformation occurs through awareness offered by emotions and experience.  Experience occurs through our actions or choices in behavior.

The following statements made by Verna Bartlett have been matched with a behavior, action, or experience.  Possible emotions were also paired with the statement.  Review these statements and discuss with someone else your thoughts about the behavior, action, experience, and emotion.  You can choose to agree/disagree, speak about your understandings, and/or share how these experiences and emotions transformed Verna into a warrior.

Verna Bartlett Statement Behavior/Action/Experience Emotion
“We weren’t just beaten with a belt; we were beaten with the buckle end of the belt.” Physical abuse Fear, lonely, sad, scared
“He’d send him to his room telling him he’s not allowed to come out and then he’d take me to his room; when I was seven years old; I didn’t know what was going on. No one ever told me anything about sex or touching. So he had access to me from the time I was seven until I was eleven.” Sexual abuse Afraid, shut down, confused, lost, alone
“I cut my wrist [uncovers right wrist] so bad that I had a cast on this one. I really wanted to die. I saw no point in living. I would jump out of cars that were moving.” Suicidal behavior Sad, afraid, scared, unhappy, disgusting,
“When I was sixteen and seventeen, I started dating, and I didn’t want anybody touching me, and in my own stupid way, I put straight pins around my bra [points to chest] to where if you touched me, you got stuck with a straight pin.” Protective decision Angry, afraid, protective, sad, mad
“I got married and endured domestic violence to the point of where he beat me so badly, and I crawled back in a closet so he couldn’t get to me, because he kept on following. I went way back in the corner. He went to work in the morning, and I crawled out of there, my eyes were both closed, my cheekbone was fractured, my nose was broken. I looked terrible. I looked like an animal. I had matted blood in my hair.” Domestic violence Shut down, afraid, lonely, sad, unhappy, disgusting, awful
“They put me in a straitjacket for 24 hours; then put me in a locked facility.” Taking away personal power helpless
“If he made a move toward me, I was going to kill him. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t hurt. I said, ‘I’m just tired of this bullshit.’ You know, being beat up, beat up, beat up, beat up.” Taking a stand Hurt,  tired
“As soon as Billy Mills started talking, something went “click” in my head. Just “click.” I said, “Whoa! Oh, my god. I’m going to go to college. I’m going to quit being in welfare. I’m going to do something to help my children and help my people.” Developing awareness Hopeful, excited, aware, amazed
When giving up alcohol…“No more alcohol and no more parties. No more alcohol to kill the pain of knowing I’m bad and I’m ugly and I’m dirty, I’m filthy, I’m a victim of child sexual abuse. How am I going to kill that pain now? Contemplating a choice Afraid, contemplative, thoughtful, curious
“I had to hitchhike from Puyallup South Hill, where my home was, to Auburn. But it was nothing, because I had someplace to go and something to do. And sometimes it was cold, sometimes rainy, sometimes hot, but for two years I walked, and then once in a while I’d get a car that would run a little bit and break down.” Determination to do it Determined, excited, hopeful, willing, ready
“I always tell when I speak to youths ‘Go get educated.’ I researched my family history.” Identifying a solution Hopeful, ready, clear
When talking about domestic violence… “Well, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Excuse me, but I’m not going to fluff it. I’m not going to make it nice. I’m telling you, these things exist on our reservation, and it’s time we do something about it.” Taking a stand Assertive, honest, clear, truthful
“I’m just going to quietly walk my road, get my education, and present my education and my findings to the council and the people of the community and form a child abuse center.” Becoming clear Strong, assertive, truthful, happy, ready, honest

Conclusion: Do you want to become a warrior?  Can you identify experiences of abuse, contemplation, determination, assertiveness, and clarity?  Can you find the transformation in your own story?