of a Full Moon playwright and creator Mary Kathryn Nagle opens
up the performance with commemoration to all of the performers
for their courage in sharing their stories.
Deep within the genuine strengths of each individual, there
often lies a shattered image of security, value, and hope. In the
confines of every American Indian reservation, thousands of native
males and females have felt that feeling of isolation after being
diminished to the burdens of violence, domestic, emotional, and
sexual abuse. A cry for help is sought in an attempt of desperation
and rescue, but the biggest problems revolve around the ignorance
of the subject matter, as well as native victims who choose not
to confess about their own dilemmas.
However, the fight to protect natives against abuse and violence
has picked up steam in the past three years gathering the
attention of advocates from across the country as well as the United
States Congress. Now, American Indian victims are sharing their
stories of abuse through performance art, bringing their stories
to life in an attempt to provide awareness to other victims, native
"Sliver of a Full Moon," written by playwright Mary Kathryn
Nagle, tells the true story of a movement led by the native women
who took a stand to restore the authority of Indian tribes over
non-Indian abusers to protect women on tribal lands.
The movement gathered attention in March 2013 when President
Barack Obama reinstated the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This
grants tribal courts the missing piece in prosecuting non-native
offenders who abuse native women on tribal lands. However, the Act
limits the restoration of jurisdiction to "Indian Country," thereby
excluding 228 federally recognized tribes in Alaska. Which asks
the question: what will it take to restore the jurisdiction of all
tribes to protect the lives of all native women?
Ute tribal member Diane Millich (center) shares a smile with
her fellow performers Kim Gleason (left) and Yenita Yawakie
(right) at the humanizing play, Sliver of a Full Moon, hosted
at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.
on March 23. The performance highlights the true stories of
American Indian victims who once fell into the hands of domestic,
sexual, and emotional abuse; stories which would eventually
turn the world around in a state of awareness.
Southern Ute tribal member, Diane Millich, who introduced Vice
President Joe Biden during the restoration of the Act, is now presenting
her story through art as she reaches out to others.
"We all have our own personal experiences. I think it's important
to understand that domestic and sexual violence is not part of our
culture," Millich said. "It's easy to see the injustices that are
here, but the difficult part is getting the victims to tell their
stories. I'm here for the silent victim to come forward. Maybe they're
not ready, so I will speak their story for them."
At age 26, she fell in love with a Caucasian man. The world
felt like everything was together, but then everything started to
change. For years, Millich would surrender to the hands of domestic
abuse, a duration she thought she wouldn't survive. After escaping
the dreadful clutches and fighting back with activism, she now looks
back at her story as a lesson in faith for a better world.
Banks, chair of the Institute of American Indian Art's performing
arts program, commemorates all the performers.
"I kind of look at it as a confession. When you start to tell
your sins, that sting starts to go away and we heal," she
The play was recently praised with recognition when it made
a stop at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa
Fe, N.M. on Wednesday, March 23. The play is a collaboration of
students from Yale University and IAIA, and will make stops at New
York University in April and Stanford University in May.
"This is an incredible collaboration with our students. They
are all incredibly talented, and this is all real," said playwright
Mary Kathryn Nagle as she addressed the audience.
Nagle, an Oklahoma native, is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
She represents Yale University as the Executive Director of the
Indigenous Arts Program, which is designed to develop native voices
in the American theater and ensure that native voices reach the
"Writing this, I had to make hard choices. In the end, these
women and victims are the ones who stood up to fight for a change,
and they succeeded," she said.
Charlene Teters, Academic Dean for IAIA, stated, "The performing
arts is reinvigorating itself. We encourage our students to use
this to address issues of our time. Some of the most courageous
work comes from artwork."
Audience members commented that the stories, although haunting
and disturbing, struck an emotional chord in bringing light to such
an important subject.
Brunner (right) from the White Earth Ojibwe Nation receives
support from Southern Ute tribal member Dianne Millich (left)
as she tells an intimate and subjective story about abuse.
Lisa Brunner (performer) was only four-years-old when she witnessed
a life-changing event. She saw the brutal beating of her mother
by the hands of her non-native stepfather, who used the butt of
a shotgun as Lisa hid underneath a table. Her stepfather would then
snicker to himself before kicking off his boots and going to bed
with no shame in thought as Lisa cared for her mother. Twenty years
later, she found herself in a loop as she was still exposed to a
world of domestic violence right on her own homeland.
The light for Lisa would eventually begin to come clear. She
grew stronger and independent within her own self, advocating for
others to not experience the same atrocities. She now advocates
on the White Earth Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota, reaching out to victims
who deep down may be crying for help.
"We are human, and we are citizens of this Earth," Brunner said
tearfully to the audience. "Our culture is what keeps us together.
Violence was never apart of it. There are victims in all of us.
We represent every one of them."
The epidemic of violence against American Indian victims continues
to sweep the nation at a heavy increase. According to the Violence
Against Native Women Fact Sheet, put out by the Dept. of Justice,
native women are 3.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted
in their life more than women of other races. Native victims of
intimate and family violence are also more than likely be severely
injured in domestic abuse and need of hospital care over
all other races. Additionally, native women are twice as likely
to be murdered by a family member, as are native men (Native women:
31 percent. Native men: 15 percent).
Performers Kody Alvord (left), Reed Adair
Bobroff (middle left), and Ozawa Bineshi Albert (far right)
share a group photo.
At an alarming rate, 22 percent of native children suffer from
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is the equivalent
found in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In 2015, the CDC's (Center
of Disease Control) National Center For Health Statistics declared
suicide among natives to be in a severe crisis. According to the
National Alliance of Mental Illness, 90 percent of suicides are
due to trauma and illnesses conditions that are often treatable.
Millich added that a difficult fight for native rights is inevitable,
but Indian Country can remain strong if natives break their silence
and reteach traditional values.
"You're never alone and you never have to suffer in isolation,"
she said. "It's not just women it's also men, children, two-spirit,
elders. My message is don't suffer in silence. You can break that
cycle. Deep down in your heart and soul, there will always be that
'sliver' of hope."
of a Full Moon
Sliver of a Full Moon is a portrayal of resistance and celebration.
It is the story of a movement that restored the authority of Indian
tribes over non-Indian abusers to protect women on tribal lands.
Although thousands contributed to this victory, Sliver of a Full
Moon follows the story of five Native women who took a stand and
two Native men, including Congressman Tom Cole, who stood with them
to win this victory. But this victory doesnt include
our sisters in Alaska.