Arming Sisters is a documentary movie profiling six women who are working on a grass-roots level to combat violence against Native American women.
The Ft. Berthold Reservation (the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations) in North Dakota has struggled with an escalation in crime in recent times due to the influx of transient workers from the Bakken crude oil boom. This has seen a rise in sex trafficking and sexual violence against Native women.
According to the US Dept of Justice, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than all other American women. Amnesty International found that 1 in 3 Native women reports having been raped during her lifetime and that 86% of the offenses are committed by non-Native men.
For their first feature film, Arming Sisters, filmmakers Willow O’Feral and Brad Heck wanted to showcase some of the women fighting this epidemic.
The film introduces Patty Stonefish, a young Lakota woman bringing self-defense workshops to reservations, Dawn White, a tribal cop on call in the thick of the oil craze, and Sarah Deer, a Muscogee lawyer, professor, and MacArthur Fellow developing policy.
Willow O’Feral explains that Native women are protecting each other and demanding systemic change. “They have the answers, they know exactly what to do, and so we’re trying to push forward their vision for change,” she said.
Arming Sisters is currently in production.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea