Honoring Women: Lisa Cook

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RAPID CITY, S.D. ñ Lisa Cook, attorney for Stronghold, a legal advocacy organization of Kyle-based domestic violence shelter Cangleska Inc., is seemingly hot-wired to be an advocate for people and change.

She was a licensed therapist who coaxed guns from clientsí hands and helped many other people through psychological issues. As a tribal judge, she set rules and boundaries that could change a community for the better.

Now she assists battered women with legal advice and advocacy whether in or out of court.

Cookís entire life has been dedicated to helping others by using a direct approach or by working to prevent adverse impact on people from societal and ideological pressures. She is a regular supporter of a womanís right to choose, and publicly protests South Dakotaís abortion ban.

ìMy mother [professor , lecturer and author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn] is the reason Iím determined and outspoken. Her judgment is impeccable and right-on. I always tried to test her,î Cook said.

ìMy job is to be a good human being and try to help others.î

As a youth, Cook lived in a variety of locations while her mother attended or taught in colleges, the last at Eastern Washington University. She returned to Rapid City after her mother retired.

Cook earned a masterís degree in clinical psychology after receiving a bachelorís degree in anthropology with minors in Spanish, Indian Studies and education. ìI was a Ph.D. dropout.î

While in graduate school she supported her son, Teo. She then worked in the mental health field in Rapid City.

Cook, a licensed therapist, worked in Riverton, Wyo., and later married a member of the Northern Arapaho Nation. A blended family brought five stepchildren and two grandchildren into her life.

When her husband died at an early age, she began to reassess her life. Although she said she loved her job, after 10 years she said she wasnít sure if she could continue to be a therapist.

She wanted to find something that would pay more and also allow her to help people ñ a career in law.

Cook earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico and moved to Rapid City to work for a law firm there. After three years, she became a tribal judge on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

As a judge for the Oglala Sioux tribal court system, she implemented procedures and set boundaries that would, in effect, change the social culture of the community; she saw a lot of abuse and neglect cases.

ìI loved that job and I was good at it. I had a diligent professional staff that was well-organized.

ìI expected people to show up for a court date prepared. I wouldnít let them blame the clerks if they missed a court date. I told them not to dis the clerks, [and] they stopped.

ìI worked hard to change the norm in the community and I think I did.

ìSince I am Indian, I expected more from Indian people. Some tried to play the ëdumb Indianí and I told them it was not going to be successful with me. I was working to change a way of life.

ìI loved that job, but didnít enjoy the politics.î

Politics entered the picture. People would complain to tribal council members about her and the changes she applied. Many families try to protect themselves, she said.

She was eventually removed as a tribal judge. The Oglala Sioux Tribe does not employ a separation of powers and the judges sit at the will of the tribal council.

ìWithout a separation of powers, people can encourage the government to be as dysfunctional as they are,î she said.

Cook is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, where her mother is enrolled. Her son, Teo, recently graduated from Marine boot camp in San Diego.

She said Rapid City is where she wants to remain; she has a granddaughter there, and her work is still helping people.

If she werenít working as a legal advocate for Stronghold, she would want to work with Doctors Without Borders: she will always do something to help people, she said. A documentary about hospitals in Iraq made her think that she may be of help, even though she has no medical training.

Cook grew up at the end of the baby boomer generation and remembers when she was told to put a brick in the toilet reservoir tank to save water, she did. She also put stickers on the light switches as reminders to turn the lights off.

ìThe majority didnít think of that. Most think of themselves. I am disappointed in them. They have benefited from the civil rights movements, voting rights and from womenís rights, yet they think of how to turn that into benefits for themselves and not continue the fight,î she said.

She commented on the situation for todayís young women.

ìYoung women are pressured to doubt themselves and wonít develop themselves as people and have a serious role. Indian nations canít afford that.

ìIf a woman hears it is not her role to be a leader ñ that comes from the white manís world.

ìSo many young [American Indian] women are told to be mute, clean house and have children: nothing can be farther from the truth.î

Cook is very insistent that what she learned from her mother, aunts and grandmother was that Lakota women are leaders. But some women do not have the self-esteem to challenge what they are told.

ìMost women want to be partners, wives and mothers, not unpaid labor and be cast aside for the next concubine,î Cook said.

RAPID CITY, S.D. ñ Lisa Cook, attorney for Stronghold, a legal advocacy organization of Kyle-based domestic violence shelter Cangleska Inc., is seemingly hot-wired to be an advocate for people and change. She was a licensed therapist who coaxed guns from clientsí hands and helped many other people through psychological issues. As a tribal judge, she set rules and boundaries that could change a community for the better.Now she assists battered women with legal advice and advocacy whether in or out of court. Cookís entire life has been dedicated to helping others by using a direct approach or by working to prevent adverse impact on people from societal and ideological pressures. She is a regular supporter of a womanís right to choose, and publicly protests South Dakotaís abortion ban. ìMy mother [professor , lecturer and author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn] is the reason Iím determined and outspoken. Her judgment is impeccable and right-on. I always tried to test her,î Cook said.ìMy job is to be a good human being and try to help others.îAs a youth, Cook lived in a variety of locations while her mother attended or taught in colleges, the last at Eastern Washington University. She returned to Rapid City after her mother retired.Cook earned a masterís degree in clinical psychology after receiving a bachelorís degree in anthropology with minors in Spanish, Indian Studies and education. ìI was a Ph.D. dropout.îWhile in graduate school she supported her son, Teo. She then worked in the mental health field in Rapid City.Cook, a licensed therapist, worked in Riverton, Wyo., and later married a member of the Northern Arapaho Nation. A blended family brought five stepchildren and two grandchildren into her life.When her husband died at an early age, she began to reassess her life. Although she said she loved her job, after 10 years she said she wasnít sure if she could continue to be a therapist. She wanted to find something that would pay more and also allow her to help people ñ a career in law.Cook earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico and moved to Rapid City to work for a law firm there. After three years, she became a tribal judge on the Pine Ridge Reservation.As a judge for the Oglala Sioux tribal court system, she implemented procedures and set boundaries that would, in effect, change the social culture of the community; she saw a lot of abuse and neglect cases.ìI loved that job and I was good at it. I had a diligent professional staff that was well-organized.ìI expected people to show up for a court date prepared. I wouldnít let them blame the clerks if they missed a court date. I told them not to dis the clerks, [and] they stopped.ìI worked hard to change the norm in the community and I think I did.ìSince I am Indian, I expected more from Indian people. Some tried to play the ëdumb Indianí and I told them it was not going to be successful with me. I was working to change a way of life.ìI loved that job, but didnít enjoy the politics.îPolitics entered the picture. People would complain to tribal council members about her and the changes she applied. Many families try to protect themselves, she said.She was eventually removed as a tribal judge. The Oglala Sioux Tribe does not employ a separation of powers and the judges sit at the will of the tribal council.ìWithout a separation of powers, people can encourage the government to be as dysfunctional as they are,î she said.Cook is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, where her mother is enrolled. Her son, Teo, recently graduated from Marine boot camp in San Diego. She said Rapid City is where she wants to remain; she has a granddaughter there, and her work is still helping people.If she werenít working as a legal advocate for Stronghold, she would want to work with Doctors Without Borders: she will always do something to help people, she said. A documentary about hospitals in Iraq made her think that she may be of help, even though she has no medical training.Cook grew up at the end of the baby boomer generation and remembers when she was told to put a brick in the toilet reservoir tank to save water, she did. She also put stickers on the light switches as reminders to turn the lights off.ìThe majority didnít think of that. Most think of themselves. I am disappointed in them. They have benefited from the civil rights movements, voting rights and from womenís rights, yet they think of how to turn that into benefits for themselves and not continue the fight,î she said.She commented on the situation for todayís young women.ìYoung women are pressured to doubt themselves and wonít develop themselves as people and have a serious role. Indian nations canít afford that. ìIf a woman hears it is not her role to be a leader ñ that comes from the white manís world.ìSo many young [American Indian] women are told to be mute, clean house and have children: nothing can be farther from the truth.îCook is very insistent that what she learned from her mother, aunts and grandmother was that Lakota women are leaders. But some women do not have the self-esteem to challenge what they are told.ìMost women want to be partners, wives and mothers, not unpaid labor and be cast aside for the next concubine,î Cook said.