S.D. During the height of political unrest in Indian country
during the 1960s and '70s, men such as Russell Means, Dennis Banks
and Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt were the media-recognized leaders
of Red Power, the grass roots movement marked by its activism and
a resurgence of Indian cultural identity, pride and traditionalism.
away from much of the media attention stood such women as Madonna
Thunder Hawk, Lorelei DeCora, Janet McCloud, Pat Bellanger, Lakota
Harden, and LaNada Means War Jack. These were just a few of the
Indian women in the trenches of the Red Power movement.
the untold stories of Native women activists will be documented
in an upcoming film, "Warrior Women," a one-hour documentary to
be aired on PBS. University of South Dakota Assistant Professor
Elizabeth Castle, the film's writer and producer, eyes a 2012 completion
date for the film, which is in pre-production. The project is the
recent recipient of a grant from Native American Public Telecommunications.
of Shawnee descent, began learning about the Red Power movement
some 12 years ago. The movement gained international prominence
in 1968 with the founding of the American Indian Movement, in Minneapolis.
Through activism and social protest, AIM addressed such issues as
police brutality, broken treaties, Indian sovereignty and poverty.
Among the defining events of AIM was the 1973 standoff with federal
agents at Wounded Knee, S.D."It was a movement of family and community,
and at the heart of family and community are women."
into the story of Red Power by its connection to family and community,
Castle is out to preserve the knowledge and life experience of Indian
women activists for future generations. Through oral history, interviews
and archival footage, "Warrior Women" is bound to shed light on
a once limited history of women's involvement in the movement. "Visual
media is so important. That's one of the reasons this (film) had
the Clinton administration, Castle worked as a policy associate
in the administration's Initiative on Race Relations. There, she
noticed not a single person on the nine-member advisory board was
of American Indian descent. "They had absolutely no working knowledge
of Indian country whatsoever."
today, Castle said a frustrating lack of knowledge about American
Indians still exists. "It never ever fails to blow my mind."
Western image of the Indian a man on a horse with feathers
and war paint still dominates popular culture, and the Indian
woman, with the exception of the "Indian princess," is mostly invisible,
irrelevant and powerless. "We've gotten it wrong for so long," Castle
media's focus on the men in the movement allowed Indian women the
freedom to get things done behind the scenes, Castle said. "The
white media wasn't going to recognize Native women's voice."
an assistant professor of American Indian studies, noted the many
disruptive events that occurred in Indian country, not just in the
1880s, but in the 20th century: The massive loss of land and its
spiritual impact, boarding schools and the policy of assimilation,
Indian relocation and the termination era. She said many women in
the movement were boarding school survivors and many, such as Wilma
Mankiller, had a galvanizing experience that taught them how to
direct their anger. "She (Mankiller) learned how to be an organizer
the aftermath of AIM's occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, women
carried on their activism. "This is such an unknown area of history,"
Indian women were at the forefront of looking at the connection
between health and environment, said Castle, noting their involvement
in the Black Hills Alliance, the formation of Women of All Red Nations,
the fight against forced sterilization and the establishment of
was a movement of family and community, and at the heart of family
and community are women," Castle said. "Women are the story of Red
is guided by a concern with exploring ways that academic research
could be of use to Native communities a way to give back
that would disrupt the historical pattern of removing indigenous
knowledge from communities.
really important for people to know that they're not your data,"
said Castle, who interviewed women over the course of 10 years.
Some were urban, and some were rez. Some had college educations.
Others had no formal education. "We are seeking to be as inclusive
as we can be to allow people to speak their own truth."
addition to the film's airing on PBS, Castle envisions screenings
of "Warrior Women" at film festivals and South Dakota reservations.
"We want the film to be viewed as widely as possible."
film will be coming out at a good time, she said. "I think we have
a global lack of knowledge on what it means to be indigenous."