The Warrior Women Oral History Project is a collection of oral history interviews with most of the key organizers and activists in the Red Power Movement of the 1970's.
Madonna Thunder Hawk & Phyllis Young | Interview January 27, 2003
Madonna Thunder Hawk is a Two Kettle Lakota of Cheyenne River and Phyllis Young is Hunkpapa Lakota from Standing Rock Reservation. Thunder Hawk and Young met during relocation in Cleveland in 1970. Both were working at the Cleveland Indian Center. Similar life experiences, such as the persistent trauma of the boarding school experience, bonded the two women. This interview focuses on the individual and collective efforts of these two women in the period following the dramatic action of Wounded Knee and into the 1980’s. Thunder Hawk and Young were active in the American Indian Movement [AIM] and were later co-founders of Women of All Red Nations [WARN]. In addition to these organizations Thunder Hawk founded Survival Schools which offered Indian youth a place of unconditional acceptance and stability. Thunder Hawk has continued to focus her efforts on community organizing and bringing awareness to the issues of Indian Country. Young found her niche in decoding the bureaucracy of the treaties and land claims between Indian nations and the U.S government. The self-described “technician” of the Movement focused her attention on the efficacy of the treaty, preserving the history of the Movement and organizing events such as the International Indian Treaty Council held in Geneva in 1977.
Both Thunder Hawk and Young distinguish entities like AIM and WARN from other organizations of the same time. The activists like Thunder Hawk and Young, that brought AIM and WARN to life, were operating in a time when there was no precedent for the level of social change that was being called for. It wasn’t even until the late 1970’s that there was an international concept of indigenous peoples. Young asserts, “The beauty of our culture is based on necessity. We had to do it. It was our time in history. It was our place and our obligation to create some kind of entity for ourselves to take up those issues and that’s what we did. We were obligated to do it and we did it.” In reference to the role of Indian women in the Movement, Thunder Hawk clarifies that, “Indian women, whether they had an organization and a name or not. . . women always led the communities. And they still do. Title and position is a new thing. That’s the European thing.” Thunder Hawk and Young look to the future and towards their continued involvement in the struggle as elders.
Geraldine Janis | Interview November 2, 1998
Geraldine Janis (1928-2005) was Oglala Lakota and was born on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She walked on December 11, 2005. Janis worked as a Community Heath Representative during the height of the Red Power Movement. She was later fired from the Community Heath Representative for demonstrating against Tribal Chairman, Dick Wilson. Janis witnessed firsthand the impact that the American Indian Movement had on the people of Pine Ridge.
She remembered, “They made these kids think of being Indian, a lot of them were ashamed of being Indian because they were discriminated against. They made them proud to be an Indian.” During the Wounded Knee occupation, Janis worked to gather food and supplies to be sent inside the occupation. After Wounded Knee, the 'reign of terror' that ensued resulted in a polarization between 'GOON' and American Indian Movement supporters. Janis recalls that families were divided due to this polarity.
Before Anna Mae Aquash was found murdered near Pine Ridge, she is remembered by Janis as a strong person who cared about people. When asked about the current state of affairs on Pine Ridge, Janis noted that the old GOON-American Indian divisions have passed and people are finally getting along. She also noted the rebirth of traditionalism and the pride of children in being Indian. However, Janis also commented that there is room for improvement on the reservation. There is need for programs to keep juveniles out of prison, nursing homes for the elderly and increased opportunities for employment on the reservation.
Rosalyn Jumping Bull | Interview January 29, 2003
Roselyn Jumping Bull (1931 - 2015) was a Oglala Lakota and lived in Oglala, South Dakota her entire life. She experienced the occupation of Wounded Knee as a resident of that area. She witnessed the arrival of the American Indian Movement [AIM] and the activism that ensued.
Although not a member of AIM herself, Jumping Bull considered herself a supporter. In fact, when asked about the significance of AIM, she replied, “I think that’s the best thing that ever happened to us. People kind of behaved after that.” She credits AIM with a cultural revival and the rebirth of traditional ceremonies like the Sun Dance and sweat lodge.
After the occupation of Wounded Knee, Jumping Bull went to work as a Community Health Representative. She also recalled protesting crimes against Indians at Gordon, Nebraska and Calico, South Dakota. The 1975 Shootout at the Jumping Bull Compound where two FBI agents and one Indian man died took place on Jumping Bull’s family land. Jumping Bull herself had gone to Custer, South Dakota with her niece that day, but recalled being unable to return home because of police barricades. She also recalled being harassed and threatened by FBI agents that surrounded the property and vowed revenge for the deaths of the FBI agents.
Jumping Bull continued her support of Movement causes and participated in nationwide speaking tours that advocated the release of Leonard Peltier from prison.
MTH Choach Means
Madonna Thunder Hawk and Choach Means Interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle on February 16, 2005.
Regina Brave interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle on February 17, 2005.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Madonna Thunder Hawk interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle in 1998.
Faith Traversie interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle on February 19, 2005.
Mark Tilsen Interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle on February 18, 2005.
History at the Intersection
Round table discussion between scholar activists at the Organization of American Historians' Annual Conference in San Jose, CA in 2005.
Lilas Jarding Interviewed by Elizabeth A. Castle on February 28, 2009.