Kali photo/Christopher Johnson
Oneida Nation Domestic Violence Coordinator Gene Red Hail (left, purple shirt) pauses with participants in his program before taking them into a sweat lodge October 9. The sweat lodge is one of several tools Red Hail uses when working with male clients to help re-instill traditional values in their lives.
Oneida Nation Domestic Violence Coordinator Gene Red Hail has spent two decades working in the community to not only help raise awareness of domestic violence, but also to work with the men who have been convicted of the offense. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Red Hail helped arrange a sweat (lodge) for men October 9 in Oneida.
“The Creator gave us this ceremony to help purify,” Red Hail said. “Women have their natural purification cycle, but men don’t have that so we need a sweat to help purify. This has been a healing process for me as well, and I love seeing a man make positive changes in his life. In 2017-2018 the Office of Violence Against Women and Justice Department recognized the Oneida Domestic Violence Program.”
Oneida’s Domestic Violence Program has afforded Red Hail the opportunity to help re-instill traditional Native values in men who have fallen by the side. “The values we’re supposed to have as Native men are already available to us in our traditional teachings,” Red Hail said. “It has nothing to do with being tough and not backing down and walking around with that warrior look. It’s about being humble, compassionate, giving, loving, and caring. These are the values we’re supposed to live by. These men in this program see that and respect that.”
Red Hail receives his clients from the court system, all of whom have been convicted of domestic violence. “Violence against women is a shameful subject and many of my clients don’t know how to think about that,” Red Hail said. “It’s more prevalent than they think, so by the time they’ve left this program hopefully they’ve reclaimed their honor as Native men.”
Red Hail has 31 years of substance abuse recovery and working with these men continues to inspire him to keep doing what he’s been doing. “We always have somebody that can help get us to that next chapter in our life,” Red Hail said. “Somebody is talking to them about something that men don’t talk about. This has been my life for 31 years now. I’m coming up on 20 years with this program and I’m getting close to retirement. Hopefully one of these young men will take up the reigns and help pass on this knowledge.”