By Cheryl Cedar Face
MHA Times Editor
The Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence hosted “Sliver of a Full Moon,” a reenactment of 2013’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Told through first-hand accounts of both abuse and redemption, the play sheds light on domestic violence in Indian Country, while also seeking to promote healing through the telling of one’s story.
The event, hosted by BJ Brady, was held at the 4 Bears Casino Grand Ballroom on Jan. 20. Speakers from across the state shared their take on the importance of VAWA, and the necessity of protecting Native women.
“Anytime Indian people come together, we make things happen,” said North Segment Councilman Ken Hall.
“We all come from humble beginnings,” Councilman Hall continued. “We were taught to enjoy life and respect one another.”
Some speakers focused on the higher rates of sexual assault and domestic violence that Native American women face. 1 in 3 Native women will be raped or abused in her lifetime.
“Everyone has the right to live safe and free from violence,” said Linda Thompson, director of the First Nations Women’s Alliance. “It’s through your stories that others can heal.”
“Sliver of a Full Moon” was written by Mary Katherine Nagle, who based the story on interviews conducted with numerous survivors. Many of the cast members acted as themselves, sharing their personal stories with the audience.
“We’re speaking for ourselves and for those who can’t, and for those who are no longer with us,” said Nagle.
The play opened with cast members discussing where they had been when VAWA was reauthorized, relaying the significance of the moment for advocates and survivors alike. The act restored tribal governments’ ability to prosecute non-Natives for acts of violence against their members, finally removing a loophole that allowed Native women to be abused without consequence for generations.
Audience members were visibly moved as the cast shared stories of domestic violence. Many included issues involving lack of jurisdiction over non-Native American perpetrators, which allowed many attackers to go unpunished.
“Jurisdiction is a critical building block of sovereignty,” said Nagle.
The play closed with the cast again discussing where they had been when VAWA was reauthorized, re-emphasizing the importance the act had for Native American women. Despite the victory, the play drove home one single point: there is still more to do.
Cheyenne Brady, Miss Indian World 2015, expressed it plainly, “Sometimes [violence] is shoved under the rug,” she said. “We don’t talk about it, but we can work harder to protect our women.”