Screening/Reception: Warrior Women

Join NYWIFT and Vision Maker Media for a screening and reception for the upcoming documentary Warrior Women by Christina D. King and Elizabeth A. Castle. The directors and special guests Madonna Thunder Hawk and Marcella Gilbert will join the post-screening conversation moderated by NYWIFT board member Yvonne Russo.


Madonna Thunder Hawk at the Black Hills Alliance

Warrior Women
Christina D. King (Director/Producer)
Elizabeth A. Castle (Director/Producer)

67 mins, 2018, Documentary

In the 1970s, with the swagger of unapologetic Indianness, organizers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) fought for Native liberation and survival as a community of extended families.

Warrior Women is the story of Madonna Thunder Hawk, one such AIM leader who shaped a kindred group of activists’ children – including her daughter Marcella – into the “We Will Remember” Survival School as a Native alternative to government-run education. Together, Madonna and Marcella fought for Native rights in an environment that made them more comrades than mother-daughter. Today, with Marcella, now a mother herself, both are still at the forefront of Native issues, fighting against the environmental devastation of the Dakota Access Pipeline and for Indigenous cultural values.

Through circular Indigenous storytelling, the film explores what it means to navigate a movement and motherhood, and how activist legacies pass from generation to generation under a colonizing government that meets Native resistance with violence.


Photo Credit: John Larson

Madonna Thunder Hawk, an Oohenumpa Lakota, is a veteran of every modern Native occupation from Alcatraz, to Wounded Knee in 1973 and more recently the NODAPL protest at Standing Rock. Born and raised across the Oceti Sakowin homelands, she first became active in the late 1960s as a member and leader in the American Indian Movement and co-founded Women of All Red Nations and the Black Hills Alliance. In 1974, she established the We Will Remember survival group as an act of cultural reclamation for young Native people pushed out of the public schools. An eloquent voice for Native resistance and sovereignty, Thunder Hawk has spoken throughout the United States, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East and served as a delegate to the United Nations in Geneva.

In the last three decades at home on Cheyenne River, Thunder Hawk has been implementing the ideals of self-determination into reservation life. She currently works as the tribal liaison for the Lakota People’s Law Project in fighting the illegal removal of Native children from tribal nations into the state foster care system. She established the Wasagiya Najin “Grandmothers’ Group” on Cheyenne River Reservation to assist in rebuilding kinship networks and supporting the Nation in its efforts to stop the removal of children from Native families. 


Photo Credit: John Larson

Marcella Gilbert, the daughter of Madonna Thunder Hawk, is a Lakota/Dakota/Nakota community organizer with a focus on food sovereignty and cultural revitalization. She currently runs the Food, Garden and Healthy-Living Initiative for Simply Smiles, a non-profit organization established on Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation where Marcella is from and currently resides. Prior to Simply Smiles, she was a Community Development Field Specialist for South Dakota State University Extension on Cheyenne River reservation. Her life long passion for fresh nutritious food led her to earn a Master of Science in Nutrition from South Dakota State University. 

Her formative years were influenced by the activism of her extended family’s leadership in the American Indian Movement. She was a seventeen-year old delegate to the newly established International Indian Treaty Council to Geneva in 1977 and a graduate of the We Will Remember Survival Group. This alternative school run by and for Native people, was a remarkable tool for decolonizing and healing the intergenerational damage caused by boarding school. Her goal is to reintroduce sustainable traditional foods and organic farming to her reservation as an expression of the most fundamental form of survival and empowerment. Her current work is the launching of the pilot project of her own survival school Waniyetu Iyawapi (Winter Count) Mobile learning experience.


An enrolled member of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma, Christina D. King’s work spans broadcast news, commercials, documentary, film, and television with a focus on human rights issues, civic engagement through storytelling, and democratizing filmmaking opportunities for marginalized voices.

King most recently debuted the narrative feature film We The Animals at Sundance 2018 to critical success. The film was awarded the NEXT Innovator Award and is nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards. King’s directorial debut about the mothers and daughters of the American Indian Movement, Warrior Women (ITVS), debuted at HotDocs and was awarded the SkinsFest award for Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking. King’s other producing credits include This May Be The Last Time (Sundance 2014), which explores the origins of Native Mvskogee worship songs in Oklahoma, as well as the POV documentary Up Heartbreak Hill.

A former Time Warner Native Producing Fellow through the Sundance Institute, King’s producing and directing work has gone on to receive support through the Institute’s Documentary Fund, Edit & Story Lab, and Producing Fellowship. King’s projects have also garnered support through fellowships with the female film fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures and Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Films. King is based in un-ceded Lenape land in Brooklyn, New York.


Dr. Elizabeth A. Castle brings almost 20 years of experience as a scholar, activist, and media maker working in collaboration with Native Nations and underrepresented communities. Warrior Women is based on the research done for her book Women were the Backbone, Men were the Jawbone: Native Women’s Activism in the Red Power Movement.

While completing her Ph.D. at Cambridge University, she worked as a policy associate for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race and in 2001 she served as a delegate for the Indigenous World Association at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. While working as an academic specialist for UC Berkeley’s Oral History Office, she received the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Santa Cruz under the supervision of Professors Angela Davis and Bettina Aptheker.

Dr. Castle was a professor in the Native Studies Department at the University of South Dakota and is the founder and Executive Director of The Warrior Women Oral History Project. Castle has numerous publications including The Original Gangster: The Life and Times of Red Power Activist Madonna Thunder Hawk. Warrior Women is Castle’s directorial debut.


Yvonne Russo, an award-winning producer, director and writer of film and television, most recently serving as Producer on Kelly’s Bar with Sea Change Media. She recently worked as a Production Advisor on Woman Walks Ahead, (Jessica Chastain, Michael Grey Eyes, Sam Rockwell) The film was written by Academy Award nominated Steven Knight, produced by The Bedford Falls Company and Black Bicycle Entertainment.  Russo has recently entered a television development deal with Handmade Films to adapt the 1989 cult classic film Powwow Highway based on a novel by David Seals. 

A Board Member of New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild of America; She’s on the Advisory Board for The Language Conservancy that works to revitalize endangered languages worldwide. Russo is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Tribal Nation. For more on Yvonne Russo.

Produced by Yvonne Russo

Shirley Sneve, Vision Maker Media
Adam Natale, Jess Jackson and the staff of the SVA Theatre
Rose Vincelli Gustine, MFA Social Documentary Film, SVA




Photo Credit: John Larson

February 20 @ 6:00pm
6:00 pm — 9:00 pm (3h)

SVA Theatre
333 West 23rd Street
(Between 8th & 9th Aves)

Free Admission


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#nywift | @nywift

NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.