ABOUT THE FILM
Arming Sisters is the story of six Native American women fighting to restore personal and tribal sovereignty in the face of ongoing colonial violence against indigenous women in the United States.
Dawn was in the Army, now she’s a tribal cop in the midst of the North Dakota oil boom that threatens to pull the last threads of her Native culture apart. Patty is a wanderer, teaching indigenous women’s self-defense across the Great Plains of her people. Sarah is an attorney and scholar fighting to overturn restrictions on tribal sovereignty and increase legislative protections for Native women. Loreline and Lisa are grassroots advocates working outside of the system to support survivors of violence and influence legislative change. Chalsey is writing the first anti-sex trafficking code to be introduced to a reservation’s tribal court.
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. Non-Indian perpetrators exploit gaps in tribal jurisdictional authority and target Native women as ‘safe victims’ with near-impunity.
Arming Sisters is an urgent call to action, a gorgeous portrait of powerful women acting in solidarity, and a demand for tribal sovereignty and self-determination as the necessary step towards ending violence against Native women.
WILLOW O'FERAL is the award-winning director, producer and cinematographer of two feature documentary films Break the Silence: Reproductive & Sexual Health Stories and Arming Sisters. Break the Silence was awarded the 2018 Choice Champion Award from Planned Parenthood of New England, and the 2019 Best Documentary Feature Award at La Frontera Queer Film Festival. Willow was a Fledgling Fellow at the 2018 DX Investigative Film Festival in Washington DC. She is a member of New Day Films, the longest running distribution cooperative for independent documentary filmmakers in the US, and a co-founder of Haptic Pictures, a production company producing beautiful original content around pressing issues of social justice.
BRAD HECK is a filmmaker, cinematographer, and educator. Arming Sisters is Brad’s directorial debut. He also recently co-produced Willow O’Feral’s feature documentary Break the Silence: Reproductive & Sexual Health Stories, and is a co-founder of Haptic Pictures production company. Previously in his career he worked as a cinematographer on commercial and independent projects, including documentaries featuring diverse visionaries such as Barack Obama, Howard Zinn and Miranda July, and was awarded a regional Emmy for his cinematography work for BRIC Media in NY. Brad currently teaches Film & Video Studies at Marlboro College and holds an MFA in Film from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he was honored with the Emerging Filmmaker Scholarship. Most recently Brad was awarded a Community Engagement Lab Grant to develop a virtual reality project chronicling the impact of climate change in Vermont.
TANTOO CARDINAL is a Cree/Metis actor, writer, and activist, and arguably the most widely-recognized Indigenous actress of her time. She has broken barriers for Native representation, combining her prodigious talent and presence with a fierce commitment to honouring Indigenous people. Tantoo is best known for her roles in Falls Around Her, Legends of the Fall, Dances With Wolves, Where The Rivers Flow North, and Smoke Signals. Her television credits include Godless, Westworld, Longmire, and Outlander among many others. Tantoo was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2009 "for her contributions to the growth and development of Aboriginal performing arts in Canada, as a screen and stage actress, and as a founding member of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company". She has played an active role in protesting the extension of the Keystone Pipeline, and in 2011 was arrested in front of the White House along with other protesters. Her numerous accolades include a Genie nomination, American Indian Film Festival Best Actress Award, the 2015 ACTRA Award of Excellence. In 2017, she was honored with the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement. Tantoo is currently shooting Stumptown on ABC. Arming Sisters is Tantoo’s first producer credit.
JAIDA GREY EAGLE
JAIDA GREY EAGLE is a Oglala Lakota artist, born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was born into a storytelling family and her work sprawls over various mediums including photography, film, beading, and writing. Jaida is a 2018 recipient of the First People’s Fund Artists in Business Fellowship, and she was awarded a Fellowship from the Native American Journalism Association in both 2017 and 2019. She recently worked with Honor the Earth to produce media content around the Indigenous fight against Line 3, a pipeline threatening Minnesota’s water supply. Her jewelry and beading work is represented by the b. Yellowtail collective, and her photography has been exhibited in over a dozen group and solo shows, appearing in various publications including Vogue, Native People’s Magazine, and Truthout.org among others. Her work in all mediums focuses on environmental justice, decolonization, art activism and mixing traditional Indigenous art with contemporary mediums. She holds a BFA in Photography from the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.
JENN RUFF is a filmmaker, editor, artist, and educator. She has worked on numerous award-winning shorts and features, including Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy, Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mama Tambien, Kim Pierce's Boy's Don't Cry, Lisa Cholodenko's High Art, and Elizabeth Subrin’s A Woman, A Part. She recently edited Lyle, an award winning feature starring Gaby Hoffman; The Color of Time a film made with numerous directors and James Franco; and Glass Chin, starring Billy Crudup and Corey Stoll. Jenn exhibits her video art and collage in galleries in NY, LA, Tokyo and London, and she most recently edited and provided the visual collage for Patti Smith’s music video, Ivry. Jenn is a full-time faculty member at NYU’s Tisch Graduate School of Film and lives in Brooklyn.
RAZELLE BENALLY is a Oglala Lakota/Diné filmmaker currently attending the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University as a 2nd year MFA Candidate in Film Production, focusing on Directing. Razelle is an alumna of the 2012 Sundance Film Institute Native Filmmakers Lab as well as an awardee of Sundance Film Institute’s 1st Native Short Film Production Grant Fellowship in 2015. She was a 2015 SWAIA Discovery Fellow and 2017 Artist in Business Leadership Fellow with the First People’s Fund. Her 2017 short film Raven has screened internationally and picked up various awards including: Best Narrative Short, Best Directing, and Best Sound. She is currently in development of her first feature narrative film, Winter in Black Mesa, which has been supported through Sundance Film Institute’s 2018 Creative Producing Summit and their 2019 Women in Sundance Strategic Financing Intensive program.
ALLISON LEIALOHA MILHAM
ALLISON LEIALOHA MILHAM is a musician, visual artist, and educator of Native Hawaiian descent who has been writing and recording music for over 15 years. She holds an MFA in Book Arts and her work often combines music with printing and bookbinding. Her award-winning, hand-printed and bound album, Uluhaimalama – Legacies of Lili’uokalani, is an immersive and layered project which uses her own renditions of the Queen’s compositions as a lens to explore Hawai’i’s political history and contemporary struggles for sovereignty. Allison’s work is held in multiple public collections including The Library of Congress and Yale University Arts Library and has been exhibited widely across the country and abroad.