Anthony Goulet interviews Tara Pretends Eagle Weber , a Native American from the Hunkpapa band of the great Lakota nation who continues to be an advocate and the face of hope and healing for families.
Most people have heard the names Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The three girls who were abducted in Cleveland, Ohio and found ten years later. However, most haven’t heard the name Tara Pretends Eagle Weber who was the ferocious advocate behind the scenes for these girls while they were missing. Tara spent countless hours supporting the families of the girls, organizing vigils, and working with media outlets to ensure the names and faces of the girls were not forgotten. She is someone who never gives up hope.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Tara Pretends Eagle Weber. She reluctantly gave me an opportunity to interview her. Her reluctance was because she isn’t as comfortable receiving the spotlight as she is giving the spotlight, which is why she is such a special person. Her life work as a social worker, advocate, journalist, writer, and publicist is shining the spotlight on the important work others are doing. I am grateful she has given me the opportunity to shine the spotlight on her and the work she has done for over twenty years to introduce her to you through the Good Men Project.
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber is a Native American woman from the Hunkpapa band of the great Lakota nation. She is a direct descendant of Chief Joseph Gall the leader at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Chief Sitting Bull, and the great-granddaughter of theCongressional Medal Honoree and Code Talker, Joseph Pretends Eagle Jr. Tara is the daughter of Al and Rose Weber.
Tara remains true to the Creator and her ancestors, carrying the timeless Lakota virtues of courage, wisdom, fortitude, humility and charity.
I first met Tara in 2002 at American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit, MI. With her baby in her arms, she supported the community in the healing that all participants were there seeking for themselves and their families. That is how I have always known her, holding her own child, raising him, dealing with her own serious struggles, yet still having enough strength to willingly carry the pain and struggles of a community on her back. Doing all this work is impressive enough, yet when I found out that she was doing this work while struggling with the debilitating and possibly deadly effects of Lyme disease, I was in awe.
Anthony Goulet: First off, thank you so much for doing this interview with me for the Good Men Project.
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: Thank you for asking to interview me. I am humbled and very honored. It is an unusual position for me to be in. Usually, as you know, I am the one asking the questions. I am happy to have been chosen to be included in a publication that brings such a positive message, especially to men.
Anthony Goulet: You come from a long line of chiefs, warriors and activists. Is this an integral part of the work you do and the path of service you have walked for more than two decades?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: Yes, I feel it’s in my blood to fight and survive. These strengths are at the core of my existence. I feel it’s only natural to fight like no other for what is right. I feel my work for the last 23 years has been to honor the great sacrifices my Lakota ancestors made for me. I feel a special connection to my ancestors as I often feel their special strength and understanding to keep fighting when others find excuses to stop fighting. I just keep standing up for what is right and for those who, for whatever reason, cannot fight on the front lines with me.
In my situation, it shows the great strength of genetics as I was adopted out of my tribe at birth and did not know the details of my heritage and ancestors until I was thirty-three years old. Yet, I fought and fought and never gave up, just like my ancestors, despite not knowing where or who I came from. It is quite remarkable how much my fight is just like theirs. It makes me so proud to know where I come from and to have developed an understanding as to why I fight the way I do.
Anthony Goulet: Was there any particular event or moment that inspired you to spend your life advocating and working for others? If you see it as a calling, do you remember when you felt called to serve others the way you have done for so many years?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: I followed in the footsteps of my adopted mother, Rose and became a social worker just like her. I always felt good about helping others even as a child. I think becoming a victim of a violent crime as a teenager and the hard healing journey it was for me as a survivor definitely inspired me to help others. I saw from my own experience how you can heal and have a wonderful life if you are given the proper healing tools. I wanted to be a part of others’ healing and fight for justice from a very young age. My passion to help others heal and see that they are treated with respect from the system comes from my heart. At a young age I learned to go with what my heart tells me, because only then I knew what I was doing was right for me.
Anthony Goulet: Can you share a little about where your passion comes from? Where does your strength to put your own serious struggles aside to serve others come from?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: I saw very early on in my career, right out of college the big effect my work had on people who were struggling with the horrors of victimization. I saw how it affected their family members and loved ones, and felt it was important to reach out to them as well. I felt the deep interpersonal connection with my clients, so this developed a special bond and trust with these initial strangers. They trusted me to help guide their broken spirits because they did not know what to do. That connection is what works. Their feedback of hugs, tears of gratitude, gifts, poems and staying in touch showed me how important I was to them. I saw the beauty of healing the heart after being so wounded. It did not happen with everyone but when it did it was a wonderful thing to experience.
I was blessed because I was good at my passion which happened to be my career. That is not always the case. So, I went with it because it not only helped others but it helped me, especially when I had my own times of agony, struggle and horrific pain.
I was blessed to learn from my Lakota elder that when we need something in order to live, such as a medicine and we are not able to get what we need to save ourselves, we have to fight like we know we will get what we need. Until you can get your own medicine you must help others fight for someone else who needs medicine. If you help save someone else’s life, your life will be saved. He was right. This is my truth. I did what I could to help others who were dying or had a broken spirit while my son and I were literally dying from a deadly disease and could not get the medicine we needed to live. Sometimes it was agonizing, but my tunnel vision allowed me to believe that I would, in the end, get the medicine we needed to live. And we did received the proper medicines we needed to live and restore our quality of life.
There have been many times in the last fifteen years where I did put my own pain aside to help others. My strong belief in my Lakota ways and unconditional support from my parents somehow always gave me the strength to help others, even when I was literally dying. It may sound crazy, but you can still change the world, even if death is knocking at your and your child’s door.
Anthony Goulet: How do you always seem to find a way to carry hope, even when many others around you seem to have lost hope?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: The best thing about hope is that it belongs to you. So no one has the right to take it away. Often times a powerful person in the system or a medical doctor may try to shed you of your hope, but it is not theirs to shed. It’s yours to do with what you want. Hope is a powerful medicine. It brings you strength and love when others have lost theirs. It motivates you to do things you probably would have never risked until the unthinkable tragedy entered your life. When my son and I were literally dying, I never lost hope. I never let myself believe for one second that we were going to die. It was not an option for my mind. I had to know I would find the medicine to save our lives. No matter how many doors slammed in my face, unreturned phone calls, or how many times a doctor verbally abused me or belittled me when I advocated for our lives, I refused to let that negative behavior take my hope away.
Sometimes hope is all you have. Always remember, hope is yours and only yours!
Anthony Goulet: What would you say to those people who have lost hope and think that there is nothing they can do to make a difference?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: I would ask them to reflect back on a time when they did have hope. I would ask them about that situation and how hope helped them. I would ask what has caused them to lose that hope.
Often times there is a valid reason for the loss of hope. I would encourage them to believe in it because hope can give you great strength that often times we are unaware is even there. Hope can also be a great protector from unbearable pain. Some often choose hope when they know the real answer, but if it helps one survive, it’s their choice. With or without hope, one can always make a difference in the world. They just need to take care of themselves and give themselves time to heal and reflect.
Anthony Goulet: Have there been any moments in your work where you felt alone and what did you do when that happens?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: I have felt alone many times in my work. I took that time to complain to a dear friend, my mom or colleague about it. If someone was not available, I would write in a journal about it. I try to clear my head by exercising and doing something that I enjoy. Now, I attend Inipi, a traditional Lakota purification ceremony to pray and support others.
Anthony Goulet: Do you have any words of encouragement for people who are doing the important work, yet are going through a period of feeling alone?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: You have to have healthy outlets when you are alone because it can be very painful to be isolated, especially when you are right. It’s important to know your limits so that it does not manifest into depression or isolation outside of your work.
Remind yourself of why you are doing the work to begin with. Probably, to help others make a difference in the world. Even when you are alone, someone still needs you. Reach out and help someone that you know you can, they are just an email or phone call away. Never give up!
Anthony Goulet: Can you please share what some of your greatest moments of fulfillment for others and for yourself have been?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: One of the greatest moments of fulfillment for myself was getting the medicines and support to save my son and I from dying from Lyme disease. To experience getting our quality of life back is a miracle that we enjoy daily. The tribe of support it took to achieve this includes unconditional love from my parents, dear friends, doctors, Advanced Cell Training, traditional Lakota ways and ceremonies. Feeling the never ending love and support is one of the greatest experiences of my life.
The greatest moments of fulfillment for others was to experience Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus returning home after being in captivity for over a decade. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Experiencing this miracle along with the rest of the world has been truly remarkable. I am very proud for never giving up and believing all along that they were alive. Never giving up or letting the world forget about them is something I am very proud of and always will be.
Anthony Goulet: How has your work impacted your son?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: My son Ranson grew up going to Amanda and Gina’s homes and events I coordinated. He would dream that they were still alive at the age of eight years old. He is strong, sensitive and learned young how to fight for his life. He saw his mother fighting for his life and understands in a unique way why his mother will fight for others. He has a keen eye for injustice and it looks as though he may be another one who will fight to change the world as a young Lakota man.
Anthony Goulet: Since you are raising a boy into manhood, what is a good man?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: A good man has a big heart. He has respect for women, the givers of life. He helps others and likes to make a difference in the world. He is there for his family at all times, whether near or far. A good man sacrifices for his children and wife. He would do anything for them and to save them from harm’s way. A good man is a protector of humanity.
Anthony Goulet: As a single mother raising your son, do you have anything you would like to share about the importance of the presence of a father in their child’s life?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: It makes all the difference. A mother cannot be a father, no matter how hard she tries. No matter how good life is for a child when a father is absent, the child will always long for his father. I had to understand that my son was going through the grief of not having his father in his life. I take that very seriously and understand the depression and void it causes. I provide a lot of support and take him to traditional ceremonies to help him with the grief, pain and healing.
Anthony Goulet: As a Native American woman do you have anything that you think men in our society should know, think about or consider in terms of how we view ourselves and how we view women?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: If we all went back to the basic belief that women are the bearers of life it would give all women and girls basic human respect. This has been lost. That is why the Lakota/Native American way of life needs to return full circle because all our nations hold this strong belief. Without the basic respect of women and girls we have become lost and broken.
Anthony Goulet: What more can men do to assist in the work of advocating for and preventing the exploitation and abduction of girls and women?
Tara Pretends Eagle Weber: Stand beside the families and advocates that are in the trenches fighting for the rights of women and girls. Men have such a powerful presence and voice. In many situations a man’s presence has a powerful effect on the response you will get from society, even when they have not said a word.
To contact Tara Pretends Eagle Weber for consultations or speaking engagements please write to her at [email protected]