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Charon Asetoyer Interviewed by Joyce Follet, September 1-2, 2005

 File — Box: 5
Link to transcript of Charon Asetoyer interview
Link to transcript of Charon Asetoyer interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

Asetoyer describes her family roots in Oklahoma, her childhood in a biracial family, and her involvement as a teen in the cultural and political life of the Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She traces her work with Native women's health programming in South Dakota in the 1980s and her involvement with national and international women of color health activists around such issues as fetal alcohol syndrome and Depo-Provera. Asetoyer explains the workings and programs of the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center and the centrality of sovereignty to indigenous women's activism. (Transcript 104 pp.)

Dates of Materials

  • September 1-2, 2005


Conditions Governing Web Access

The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that it may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Charon Asetoyer was born March 24, 1951, in San Jose, California, the youngest child of Virginia Asetoyer (Comanche) and Charles Eugene Huber. A student organizer as a teen, she dropped out of high school to start her own dress design business in San Francisco. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, she worked at the Urban Indian Health Center and became immersed in the cultural life of Haight-Ashbury and in the American Indian Movement. To escape an abusive marriage, she moved to South Dakota, where she enrolled in the University of South Dakota, earning a degree in criminal justice in 1981. She earned a master's degree in international administration and intercultural management from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1983.

In the mid-1980s, Asetoyer created and briefly directed a health program for Women of All Red Nations (WARN) to address fetal alcohol syndrome on three South Dakota reservations. After marrying Clarence Rockboy, she settled on his Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, where they set up the Native American Community Board (NACB) in 1985. Their first project was "Women and Children and Alcohol." In 1988 the NACB established the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC), which Asetoyer continues to direct.

NAWHERC gathers information on the health needs of indigenous women in the Aberdeen area (ND, SD, Iowa, Nebraska), provides referral services, runs a domestic violence shelter, and advocates Native rights. The Center maintains programs on domestic violence, AIDS prevention, youth services, adult learning, Dakota language and culture, environmental awareness and action, fetal alcohol syndrome, nutrition, and reproductive health and rights. The Center is noted for its community-based research and publications, which have influenced policies and practices of the Indian Health Service and other agencies.

NAWHERC works at local and regional levels and also addresses policy issues that affect indigenous women nationally and internationally. Asetoyer has been involved in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations from its early stages and was one of the founding co-chairs of the Working Group's Committee on Health. Asetoyer is an enrolled member of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma, and she is active in coalitions with indigenous women and other women of color in the US and internationally. She has served on the boards of the American Indian Center (San Francisco), the National Women's Health Network, the Indigenous Women's Network, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Honor the Earth. During the Clinton Administration she was appointed to one of the National Advisory Councils for Health and Human Services. She has two sons.

Language of Materials