How is Kailee Elizabeth Schaberg working to address intersectional violence among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations?

#UMNMCH student Kailee Elizabeth Schaberg (she/her, they/them) (MPH 2024) shares a personal reflection on their experience as a Domestic Violence Prevention intern (DVPi) at the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis (Center-funded position). “With the current literature, we know AI/AN women disproportionately experience intersectional forms of violence (specifically domestic violence and intimate partner violence) more than any other identity/racial group…”

My Public Health Journey

The day I learned about upstream approaches to health was one of the most validating, empowering days in my academic journey. I discovered my certainty and niche for roots – and knew public health, specifically maternal and child health, was the field I wanted to dedicate my life studies to. I would not be writing this spotlight without the support and mentorship I gained from the public health faculty at Northern Arizona University – who have empowered me to join the fight in the continued resistance to the intersectional violence women, children, and other folks on the margin experience.  After learning about the many paths of possibility in maternal and child public health, I was inspired to pursue post-graduate opportunities that focus on this population. After receiving my public health degree, I began my work as a youth advocate and sexual violence prevention educator at a local domestic violence/sexual assault/trafficking shelter non-profit in Flagstaff, Arizona. My enthusiasm to expand my knowledge and skill sets in intersectional public health advocacy has led me to the University of Minnesota (UMN) School of Public Health. The certainty I have to collaboratively find upstream, practice-based solutions to health problems is fueled by the relentless work of distinguished public health leaders, educators, and activists – many I have had the honor to meet here at the University of Minnesota. I am hopeful to continue my journey of illuminating the colorful intersections of health and building a world where all systems of violence are dismantled, and all forms of being are fully guaranteed. 

My current interests are queer adolescent sexual health, food sovereignty, decolonizing maternal care, 2SLGBTQIA+ health and liberation, violence prevention, and sexual & reproductive justice.

Advancing Health Liberation In Our Communities

My deployment greatly focused on highlighting Equity in the L.I.F.E Framework and the following Maternal and Child Health Leadership Competencies: Cultural Competency and Working with Communities/Systems. My team and I focused on mobilizing data and community stakeholders/coalitions/members (like Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC), Minnesota Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention Network, StrongHearts Native Helpline & Hennepin County No Wrong Door Initiative) to inform the community coordinated response to domestic violence among Urban American Indian/Alaska Native folks. 

Anti-Oppression Work as Public Health Praxis

I began my search for funded opportunities within the School of Public Health and was impressed with the deployments offered by the Center. I was eager to continue my violence prevention work and quickly connected with MCH alumni Delilah Robb (MPH 2022) about the Domestic Violence Prevention internship (DVPi) opportunity at the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis (IHB), a non-profit 501(c) 3 community health clinic located in the Phillips Neighborhood. After our energizing interview, we soon established my role within IHB and began our work. As the DVPi, I worked alongside Delilah, the Health Programs Supervisor at IHB, to launch the preliminary stages of IHB’s effort to address and prevent domestic (and other forms of) violence among Urban American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. 

My responsibilities reflected the objectives and goals of the year one work plan of IHB’s domestic violence prevention grant. I was first tasked with completing a comprehensive literature review on domestic violence incidence/attitudes/knowledge among AI/AN populations. The purpose of this literature review is to lay the groundwork for my second task at IHB, which involves conducting a community survey to evaluate the community’s understanding and knowledge of this topic. This community survey would then be used to inform IHB’s DVP awareness, advocacy, and educational resources, services, and prevention campaigns. It is important to note that IHB and their community partners plan to further review and inform the (dynamic) materials I created in order to ensure accuracy and accountability.

Critical Gaps in Literature as a Form of Violence 

Unsurprisingly, I learned of the significant gaps and absence of quality, community-based research in this area of study. This absence of quality, comprehensive, and reliable research and data relating to domestic violence in AI/AN communities has presented significant barriers in identifying or addressing domestic violence (Burnette, 2016). Many AI/AN communities and researchers believe that domestic violence is a direct manifestation of historical oppression, colonization, genocide, systemic violence, and the persisting structural inequities that (intentionally) perpetuate and sustain cycles of violence in these communities (Burnette, 2014). 

With the current literature, we know AI/AN women specifically disproportionately experience intersectional forms of violence (specifically domestic violence and intimate partner violence) more than any other identity/racial group (StrongHearts Native Helpline, 2022). According to a 2016 National Institute of Justice study, more than four in five AI/AN women had experienced violence in their lifetime, and one in three experienced violence within the past year (Rosay, 2016). The report also discovered that of the 1.5 million AI/AN women who had experienced violence, 97 percent of the violence was committed by a non-AI/AN/Native person (Rosay, 2016). I encourage you to reflect on these unsettling statistics for a moment.

The overwhelming gaps in culturally-responsive supportive services, resources, and traditional restorative justice approaches are perpetuating cycles of violence in these communities (Ross, 2014). For most AI/AN victims/survivors of violence, the mainstream justice systems are inaccessible and inadequate. The jurisdictional, safety, health, and accessibility barriers prevent victims/survivors of violence from seeking legal action and justice (StrongHearts Native Helpline, 2022). The systematic destruction and elimination of AI/AN traditions, cultures, and approaches are intentionally sustained by historical and contemporary colonization (Bennett, 2013). We cannot address domestic violence in AI/AN communities without addressing patriarchial colonial abuse and cultural genocide.

The Intimate Partner Violence/Battering Triangle, created by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), is an adaptation of the non-Native diagram, the Power and Control Wheel, primarily used to describe domestic violence. Utilizing Native-informed tools and resources that reflect the root causes of violence (colonization, genocide, etc.) in communities is critical in accurately informing culturally responsive approaches to domestic violence.

Moving towards Liberation & Collective Healing

AI/AN communities were not only introduced to violence through colonization but were forced by settlers to assimilate into this way of being (StrongHearts Native Helpline, 2022). We, as public health professionals, must aim to understand the mechanisms of domestic violence in AI/AN communities in the context of historical and current patriarchal colonial violence. This framework and approach are critical. We must utilize tribe-specific public health epidemiological research to inform community-centered, tribally controlled, and culturally responsive approaches to violence (Satter, 2021). We must mobilize community stakeholders AND victims/survivors of violence in our continued resistance to intersectional violence. We also must adequately reimburse community members for sharing their knowledge, lived experience, time, and vulnerability with those in the response/decision-making process. Addressing domestic violence requires us to start with practicing cultural humility and decolonizing research, engagement, and current understandings of domestic violence. It is imperative to recognize that anti-violence and anti-colonial efforts are interconnected and cannot be separated. 

My experience at IHB gave me hope that a liberated future, free of violence, is indeed possible, but only if we continuously work to center and empower those closest to the issue. 


Kailee is a second-year MCH MPH student minoring in Health Equity and Sexual Health and a certificate in Disability Policy and Services. Their background is in youth advocacy, violence prevention, and non-profit community health work. Kailee received her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences: Public Health from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She recently worked alongside MCH alumni Delilah Robb (MPH 2022) at the Indian Health Board (IHB) of Minneapolis as their Domestic Violence Prevention Intern to launch the preliminary stages of IHB’s efforts to address domestic/sexual/trafficking violence among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations in the Twin Cities. In her spare time, Kailee enjoys exploring the Twin Cities plant-based food scene, local bookstores, and outdoor spaces. After graduating, Kailee hopes to collaboratively advance health liberation in communities with a trauma-informed, anti-oppression, primary prevention approach. Kailee is an aspiring queer sexual health educator, maternal and child health advocate, and public health abolitionist.


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American Indian Men on Domestic Violence and Traditional Cultural Values. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 37 (4): 25–52.

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