In the 1970s, with the swagger of unapologetic Indianness, organizers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) fought for Native liberation and survival as a community of extended families.
Warrior Women is the story of Madonna Thunder Hawk, one such AIM leader who shaped a kindred group of activists’ children – including her daughter Marcy – into the “We Will Remember” Survival School as a Native alternative to government-run education. Together, Madonna and Marcy fought for Native rights in an environment that made them more comrades than mother-daughter. Today, with Marcy now a mother herself, both are still at the forefront of Native issues, fighting against the environmental devastation of the Dakota Access Pipeline and for Indigenous cultural values.
Through a circular Indigenous style of storytelling, this film explores what it means to navigate a movement and motherhood and how activist legacies are passed down and transformed from generation to generation in the context of colonizing government that meets Native resistance with violence.
Madonna Thunder Hawk, an Oohenumpa Lakota, is a veteran of every modern Native occupation from Alcatraz, to Wounded Knee in 1973 and more recently the NODAPL protest at Standing Rock. Born and raised across the Oceti Sakowin homelands, she first became active in the late 1960s as a member and leader in the American Indian Movement and co-founded Women of All Red Nations and the Black Hills Alliance. In 1974, she established the We Will Remember survival group as an act of cultural reclamation for young Native people pushed out of the public schools. An eloquent voice for Native resistance and sovereignty, Thunder Hawk has spoken throughout the United States, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East and served as a delegate to the United Nations in Geneva.
In the last three decades at home on Cheyenne River, Thunder Hawk has been implementing the ideals of self-determination into reservation life. She currently works as the tribal liaison for the Lakota People’s Law Project in fighting the illegal removal of Native children from tribal nations into the state foster care system. She established the Wasagiya Najin “Grandmothers’ Group” on Cheyenne River Reservation to assist in rebuilding kinship networks and supporting the Nation in its efforts to stop the removal of children from Native families.
This event is part of Women’s Week – an annual, week-long event focused on the issues and challenges faced by those who identify as female. Topics are relevant to today’s socio-economic and political climate, intersectionality, and cultural movements. This year’s Women’s Week theme “Allies in Activism” focuses on the power of Indigenous women activists in and beyond the United States.
While acknowledging colonialism and continued efforts to disenfranchise Indigenous women and their communities, this year’s events celebrate Indigenous knowledge and power. The stories of women from Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; Wayuu who occupy territory split by the Colombia-Venezuela border; and, Indigenous Peoples throughout the Pacific Islands celebrate the power of Indigenous languages and culture, share concrete examples of successful activism in the arenas of self-determination, politics and the law. These women have been unapologetic in their activism and building of institutions and cultural spaces where people might flourish.