Native Women Rising: Ending Violence and Healing Through Digital Storytelling

Indian Country Today Media, September 30, 2013


Only four out of 100 residents of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation feel safe, according to Wendy Bremner, a victim’s specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Children on this 3,000-square-mile reservation near the United States-Canada border experience adverse events at more than three times the national average, with 75 percent of them dealing with unresolved trauma. This is contrary to Blackfeet tradition, which calls for song, storytelling and ceremony to help the people overcome anything, Bremner said.

“Safety, love and beauty [were] replaced with trauma, fear and shame,” she said. “Is abuse, turmoil and confusion the new norm for a people that once lived in such beauty?”

Bremner’s answer is no. This past spring she was one of 11 Blackfeet women and one man to attend a workshop to produce digital stories to raise awareness of domestic violence and promote healing. The four-day workshop, hosted by Blackfeet Community College, storytelling company nDigiDreams and the University of Montana, was part of the Native Women Rising project.

Inspired by One Billion Rising, a global movement to end violence against women, Native Women Rising is a grassroots group trying to heal Indian country and end domestic abuse and sexual violence in Indigenous communities.

The springtime workshop, held in March, was the second hosted on the Blackfeet reservation. It drew Natives representing several generations. Organizers invited professionals like Bremner to make digital stories advocating for education and change.

Each participant had a place in a “story circle,” Rodriguez said. The circle was a safe place for people to share stories of trauma and healing.

Borrowing from Native tradition, each story shared belongs to the teller, Rodriguez said. Facilitators helped participants decide how to tell the story, what photos or supplementary media to include and how to edit and produce their stories.

Once a story is produced and put on a DVD, the storyteller has sole authority to decide who views it.

“They have the authority; they own it,” Rodriguez said. “They can put it out there at their will.”

Some storytellers share with close family members. Others post stories online. For some, telling the story is enough.


Subjects Covered: digital storytelling, healing

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