In the 1970s, with the swagger of unapologetic Indianness, organizers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) fought for Native liberation as a community of extended families.
Warrior Women is the story Madonna Thunder Hawk, one such AIM leader who cultivated a rag-tag gang of activist children - including her daughter Marcy - into a group called the "We Will Remember" survival group. 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 women are still at the forefront of Native issues, fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Through their story, the film explores what it means to balance a movement with motherhood and how activist legacies are passed down from generation to generation in the face of a government that has continually met native resistance with mass violence.
MADONNA THUNDER HAWK
Madonna Thunderhawk, 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.
Marcella Gilbert is the daughter of Madonna Thunder Hawk and a Lakota and Dakota community organizer with a focus on food sovereignty and cultural revitalization. She earned a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and currently works as a Community Development Field Specialist for South Dakota State University Extension on Cheyenne River reservation. Gilbert was a 2014 Cohort of the Bush Foundation's Native Nations Rebuilders Program.
Her formative years were influenced by the activism of her extended family’s leadership in the American Indian Movement. She was a seventeen-year old delegate to the newly established International Indian Treaty Council to Geneva in 1977 and a graduate of the We Will Remember Survival Group. This alternative school run by and for Native people, was a remarkable tool for decolonizing and healing the intergenerational damage caused by boarding school. Her goal is to reintroduce sustainable traditional foods and organic farming to her reservation as an expression of the most fundamental form of survival and empowerment. Her current work is the launching of the pilot project of her own survival school Waniyetu Iyawapi (Winter Count) Mobile learning experience.