We at The Kwek Society send you joyous and celebratory end-of-year greetings in this, our last newsletter of the year.
We have a lot to celebrate! We’ve donated about 1.25 million so far, along with more than 15,000 puberty education books and moon time bags. We now support menstruators in 14 U.S. states and Canada’s Ontario province. And one of our key partners, the nonprofit Bras for Girls, has provided students we support with almost 2,800 new sports bras!
Long-time board members Barbara Hannigan and Paige Willett were just elected to serve as our Board of Directors President and Vice-President, respectively, and Pam Vrooman, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, joined the Board. I’m continuing to run operations from Arlington, Virginia, and am grateful to the board for its support and guidance as we continue to expand our footprint across Turtle Island while making sure to meet our commitments to restock as needed the 95 schools and organizations with which we currently partner!
We recently received sizable donations from several Native Nations and grabbed the attention of two great period supply companies, Aunt Flow and August. Groups across the country — including the University of Arkansas’s Native American Initiatives program, the Arlington, Virginia, chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Administrators (ASTHO) — have hosted period care drives for us. And more family foundations and individual donors have stepped up to help.
And yet there’s so much more to do! We are excited to keep the momentum going into 2023, moving forward with our goal of ending period poverty across Indigenous North America. Please help us if you are able!
Happy and safe holidays,
Eva Marie Carney
Founder + Operator
The Kwek Society Board of Directors meeting
Our terrific partners at Central Consolidated School District, distributing supplies in New Mexico in late 2022
Sharing Berry Fast Teachings: Harmony Redsky’s Berry Fast Story
My berry fast experience
At home, our aunties seasoned us over several years for the berry fast by taking the young girls out as a group, over a weekend, to a camp to practice fasting. The aunties viewed the time as passing on teachings, showing us how to pray and fast, and visiting and crafting. We considered the time as the perfect girls’ slumber party getaway. We had fun and learned how to begin and end a fast in ceremony. We also experienced the hunger pains, the dreams, the singing, and the teachings that accompany a fast.
When my first grandmother moon cycle came to visit me, I was nearing the end of grade seven. I was so excited to finally become a “woman.” It was still the wintry cold of March break in Canada so I didn’t get to build my fasting lodge outdoors. Instead, I spent ten days in my grandmother’s loft, alone. In preparation, my grandmother removed all sources of media — television, radio, newspapers and magazines — from the loft. I fasted without food or water. After my ten days in isolation, I was able to return to school and resume my normal life. But, there was a new set of rules I had to follow for one whole year, including:
- No eating berries.
- No dancing at powwows or ceremonies.
- No makeup or provocative clothing.
- No picking up babies that couldn’t walk yet.
- No boyfriends.
- No swimming while on moon cycle.
- No alcohol or drugs.
Over that year, I had to prepare and make gifts to give away with the help of my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and aunties. On the long-awaited day of the coming out ceremony, these kwe’k (women) brought food specially prepared for the event. They covered me with a scarf and brought me into the circle they had made. After my great-grandmother guided me around the circle four times, the women removed the scarf from my head, I was finally able to dance again, and everybody cheered. This announced my arrival as a new young woman in our community. I can remember seeing my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my aunties, and my cousins all beaming with pride. I was beaming, so proud and excited — and at the same time crying in gratitude for the experience and the community caring I felt.
Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School
Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, located in Sitka, Alaska, became our partner early in 2022. We supply Keet Gooshi Heen students with our moon time bags, puberty education books and a wide array of period supplies. Sitka is a rural island community located on Tlingit Aani, the ancestral home of the Tlingit people.
The school’s health and puberty educator, Jeanine Brooks, makes us smile with her enthusiasm and love for her students. Jeanine revamped puberty education at the school, using our resources, and was able to move puberty education to early in the fall for fifth grade. In this video, Jeanine shares her students’ reactions to the supplies and educational materials that donor dollars make possible. We are thrilled to hear from Jeanine that menstruation “feels really positive for students” and also to hear that “the girls in our school have agency now around the idea of menstruation. Because they are young, third, fourth and fifth graders, it can feel very overwhelming. So to have that positive support and build that relationship to themselves and their bodies at such an early age, and as a community, is really beautiful, and I’m so excited to see sort of the long-term impact as I watch these students grow up in our small community.” We hope you’ll listen to Jeanine’s full report!
Sue Wagner, Amy Wagner Hones and Joyce Hones
Joyce Hones, Sue Wagner and Amy Wagner Hones (left to right)
Sue Wagner, Amy Wagner Hones, and Joyce Hones — three generations of generous women — each celebrate their birthdays by making gifts, and requesting that their friends make gifts, to us. Amy is a monthly donor, and Joyce recently dedicated to us the proceeds from the yoga classes she teaches. All three are citizens of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
Last month, we spoke to all three women to thank them for their support and to ask why they give. Sue told us that she gives because “it doesn’t seem right” that students might have to miss class just because they are on their periods. She appreciates that we provide puberty education materials to “help ease the transition” to young adulthood. Amy termed it “obscene” that menstruators have to navigate their students and work lives without sufficient supplies. Joyce is “passionate about supporting The Kwek Society because the mission was developed in direct response to an identified need.”
“The Kwek Society provides materials, resources, and education to shift an experience that could feel shameful and limiting (experiencing menstruation without supplies or knowledge) into empowerment by honoring the development and dignity of young Native people,” Joyce said.
“The Kwek Society is especially meaningful to us, as we came to know the founder, Eva Marie Carney, as our CPN legislative representative. We deeply trust and respect her spirit of service, advocacy, and integrity.”
The women each noted their pleasure in having three generations supporting one cause that each believes in. As Joyce put it, “By combining our giving, we are acting together with hopes of supporting and perpetuating good for future generations.”
Chi migwetch (many thanks), Sue, Amy and Joyce! We are delighted to have three generations of supporters!
Kathy Meacham Webb
Kathy Webb and her husband Greg at Potawatomi Gathering 2018 in Mayetta, Kansas
Kathy Meacham Webb has served as The Kwek Society Board’s Secretary since 2020 and supported our mission of serving Indigenous peoples in period poverty since we got started in 2018. Webb, a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has had a successful four-decades-long career in health and wellness, most of that time with Johnson & Johnson, but tells us that her work with The Kwek Society stands out as something special.
“I was aware of the expense of period products where I live. But when I learned that period products are not even available to some Indigenous people in this country, because of where they live, and that often the products are double the price, I wanted to get involved,” she said.
Webb quickly educated herself about the issues and now sees period poverty as a health and wellness issue and understand that period poverty affects not only Indigenous people living in remote locations, but impacts women in her own community in Tennessee.
Among the ways Webb supports us includes hosting a Facebook fundraiser each year for her birthday. She uses the fundraiser as an opportunity to education her community of friends and relatives about period poverty, noting that many of her friends “had no idea that having reliable access to period products was such a challenge for so many. … The Facebook fundraisers have helped them see some of the period poverty data” and given them a way to contribute to a solution for at least some menstruators.
The Kwek Society, incorporated in Virginia, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (EIN # 82-4369803). Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT! Our financial statement is available on written request from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs, PO Box 1163, Richmond, Virginia 23218. Our Candid/Guidestar report (we earned the 2022 Platinum Transparency designation) can be found here.
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