Verna Bartlett

Lesson 5 – The Changer: No More Secrets

Goal: Learn about helping others and giving back and recognize the benefit to self, others, family, and the community.

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.

Verna Bartlett has a very strong and powerful story.  As she transformed the pain in her life into positive experiences she began to give back to the community.  She recognized what she had learned and became stronger at sharing and teaching others.

"I walked that road. I took all those beatings for you guys. You don’t have to walk that road no more. You know, go the other one to education, and the church, and do good things for other people. Don’t walk that same road that I walked." And I consider it like when you’re walking up a mountain, and you look, and you have a path to walk up, and then you have the rocks and the thistles and the blackberries, and stupid you, stupid me, we take that rough path of alcoholism and drug addiction, with all the blackberry bushes and the sticklers and the rocks and everything. We go that way, when over here is a different path. Verna Bartlett

The Hero, having met the challenge, returns to where she started. She returns a new person, transformed. She does two things in this final stage; first she realizes she knew the answers to her questions that set off the journey all along. Somewhere inside she understands she always had the answer. And second, she brings back a gift to her people.

Verna Bartlett made a decision to return to her people.   In doing so she has chosen to speak up and teach so that domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and verbal abuse is addressed.  In returning she has chosen to help the people keep no more secrets.

She shares of the secrets buried in men

Many, many of our men turn to alcoholism, because they can’t talk about the pain. They can’t talk about what they went though. They have nowhere to turn. And many, many of them become perpetrators of domestic violence. Inside of them is an anger; its rage that they can’t…you can’t just take it out.” Verna Bartlett

She shares of the secrets buried in herself…

“I suffered from rage for years and years and years… and I was feeding my anger, I was feeding my hatred. I hated white people. All my husbands are Mexicans or Indians. I didn’t go with white men. I didn’t like white people. I wouldn’t communicate. I would keep men at arm’s length, because of all I had learned they had done to my ancestors.Verna Bartlett

Verna offers us some ways to learn and talk about domestic violence.  Let’s explore her gifts.

1. You don’t say, children suffer from sexual abuse, you say children suffer from trauma which is historical with Native Americans. They suffer from trauma of parents being divorced, alcoholism, drug addiction, gangs, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse. This is a form of trauma. And you form a child advocacy center, and you treat this trauma.” Verna Bartlett

2. And I always say I have a choice. For twenty-five years I followed that ugly, broken, dark, hurting path, and finally got off of it and got on the right path. Verna Bartlett

3. And they said, “I didn’t do anything wrong. My mother’s boyfriend raped me, and I started rebelling. I started not going to school, and I started running away.” And the boys, they would say, “Yeah, I had an uncle that did that to me too.” Then they start running away. And they start getting mixed up with other kids out there that do the things kids do when they’re out in the street. And the thing that they did then was sniffing glue, sniffing paint, the spray paint. And they drank. They smoked marijuana.” Verna Bartlett

4. I believe by listening to people you help them heal.” Verna Bartlett

5. Well, I know that the times that I’ve been asked to speak or times that I’ve been asked to meet someone that brings me wisdom, I always remember and tell myself, and I’ll tell the people I’m speaking to: “I came here by no accident. You came here by no accident. It’s no accident that we’re all here together. It’s a part of a greater plan, and we have no control over what happens to these things in life.” But to keep your eyes on… my goal, which is to build a child advocacy center.” Verna Bartlett

6. You don’t heal faster. You heal at different rates. It’s, the greatest thing to overcome is that you blame yourself. I’m a bad, bad, bad person, and most victims will blame themselves. Very few will say “he raped me,” or “she made me do it.” They’ll blame themselves.” Verna Bartlett

7. And education, that’s part of what I want to do. I want to go into the school system and teach them, how to successfully protect themselves. Nobody touches your body but you. You just don’t allow anybody to get close to you. And I’ve taught my grandchildren if anybody tries to touch you or grab you, you scream, and you kick, and you holler, and you scratch, and you bite. And you scream as loud as you can and you bite as hard as you can and you kick as hard as you can.” Verna Bartlett

Verna shares her wisdom with the youth and people of her community.  Reflect on your own journey and how you see yourself in relation to these gifts from Verna.  This exercise is to help us decide if we believe in the statements shared in this lesson.  From there, we choose to explore more about our beliefs.


The answer is there all of the time and it becomes a gift to the people.

Please rate these statements from Verna on a 0 – 5 Belief Scale.

0 = “I don’t believe it at all;”  3 = “I somewhat believe it or believe part of it;” 5 = “I totally believe it.”

Who can I talk with about my beliefs?  Identify below at least three people that you can talk to about the statements made by Verna Bartlett and your ratings on the Belief Scale.
Children suffer from trauma.
I have a choice.
I didn’t do anything wrong.
Listening to people you help them heal.
It’s no accident that we’re all here together.
You heal at different rates.
Nobody touches your body but you.

To walk the Hero’s Journey takes time and patience.  Find an Elder, counselor, or a friend to talk about those areas you have identified.  It is in doing this that we begin to take the first step away from isolation and into safe vulnerability.  This is the way we strengthen health and happiness.