RAPID CITY -- The cast and crew of the movie “Warrior Women” used their most recent award for Best Documentary Feature -- at the 11th Annual Black Hills Film Festival on Feb. 20 -- as an occasion to announce grassroots activities to protect Lakota and other communities from the proposed construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands crude oil pipeline.
“Warrior Women” cast members Madonna Thunderhawk and her daughter Marcella Gilbert, on stage here at their film showing, said they banded together with other grandmothers, recently convincing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to declare a state of emergency over the pipeline construction man-camps slated on four locations near Indian reservations in South Dakota.
“We are trying to prepare our communities for the effects of man-camps 50 and 60 miles from the reservation,” Gilbert said. Increases in sex trafficking and other violence against women and girls have been linked to oil industry man-camps in North Dakota.
“Warrior Women,” indigenously co-directed and co-produced by Beth Castle and Christina D. King, was conceived as a gateway to an ongoing community organizing scheme, which they describe as “an innovative collaboration of scholarship, media, and activism that seeks to provide a forum for the Warrior Women of the Red Power Movement and current indigenous activists to tell their stories in their own words for the benefit of future generations.”
It all started when Castle, who is descended from the Pekowi band of the Shawnee in Ohio and has a PhD from Cambridge University in England, wrote her book Women Were the Backbone, Men Were the Jawbone: Native Women’s Activism in the Red Power Movement.
Based on research for the book, this 64-minute retrospective follows Thunderhawk family members’ experience in the Red Power movement from the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco to the Oceti Sakowin resistance at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.
It smashes chauvinistic views of history to reveal how women and their children were vital to success in the human and civil rights struggles of the late 20th Century.
No sooner was the picture premiered than did Castle establish the Water Protectors Oral History Project, inviting participants in the international indigenous-led pipeline standoff to participate. In its two years to date, the effort has gathered some 60 videos for free educational distribution online at waterprotectorscommunity.org