Cristine has survived years of childhood sexual violence from her step-father Dale, a healer in her community. Her story was one of the first I heard, beginning to end. The emotional control her perpetrator used to groom Cristine at a young age, the sexual violence that began and lasted for 8 years, and her healing journey. She spoke with confidence, knowledge and a deeper understanding that surprised me. Her eyes stared straight ahead, open and bare, and she told me her pain, and that of her people. For hours we spoke, then I came back and we spoke for many more hours, many more times

I found her laughter to be heart warming. Often she would laugh as a way of saying "obviously", and it put me at ease, seeing her eyes crinkle and sparkle- maybe because I knew of the pain behind them, maybe because I needed reassurance that the horrors Cristine went through in her life- don't always destroy you.

I did notice little things, the knives strategically placed in every room of her house, including one by her bed, or her insistence to always sit with her back facing the wall if she's outside her own home. Her past sometimes comes through the cracks, but I know the strength that she gets from her culture and her spirituality, which has gotten her this far, will always be there for her. Her battle cry is loud.

The statistics clearly show that 86 percent of Native American folks who are raped describe their offender as non-Indian,  pointing to the source of the epidemic of sexual violence in Native American communities as one of colonization, historical events and judicial isolation. Afraid to convolute this reality I was unsure of how Cristine's experience fit into the larger story. Until I was able to understand that the harmful government policies, that began with an official government edict of “annihilate or assimilate” centuries ago, has bled into the present day and created a poisonous reality for indigenous folks that has fostered a cycle of violence within their own communities.

To hear more about Cristine’s story, the cycle of violence and what the boarding school era meant for indigenous peoples in this country check out the short documentary Hearts on The Ground.

December 2018 
We used motion blur to not show Nikki's face. I always felt this image was very fitting to our conversation. Many Native American's refer to themselves as 'Invisible'.

Sitting in the dreary, clinical conference room where she worked, Nikki showed me a pretty wary cold-shoulder when we first met. The room was dominated by large tables clustered together. We sat a few seats apart, not quite across from each other, and not quite next to each other. She passionately talked about judicial loopholes, explained Public Law 280 and blood quantum to me. When she began telling me her personal story her voice became monotone and disconnected, her eyes hollow.

We talked for an hour and a half, at which point she allowed me to take a picture of her without showing her face.

I was grateful for everything I had learned, but walking to my car that first morning I was aware that something was missing from our exchange. I felt like I was skidding along the surface instead of digging in, that I hadn't connected. I knew she had wanted to say more, that there was more for me to understand, but I also knew it wasn’t my place to ask.

Nikki at home
That evening, as I sat in my motel room trying to process my thoughts, Nikki called me to arrange another interview, at her house.

We sat first outside on her porch, and then inside in her living room. We talked about her life, her fears and her nightmares. We talked about perpetrators, cultures and dominant society. I saw her laugh and I saw her cry. She allowed me to take pictures of her.

Nikki has been abused multiple times by different perpetrators, not an uncommon reality among Native Americans. She deals with PTSD from her abuse and has battled weight problems stemming from her emotional and psychological battles. She is slow to trust and I will never forgot the suspicion, heavy in her eyes that first day. Now I see the Nikki that is full of life and laughter. She is determined and strong willed, always trying to improve and overcome and help those who have survived similar experiences through outreach and mentoring. Even in her dark hours, when triggers send her reeling inwards, I know her battle cry is strong.

Nikki recounting her childhood and her perpetrator Keith

August 2017
 We are thrilled to have 'Hearts on the Ground' featured on ViewFind, check the link

July- Latest email update

1 in 3 Native American women will experience rape in their lifetimes. A look at domestic and sexual violence from a Native American perspective within a historical context.
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22nd Annual Veteran's Powwow
Over the July 11th weekend I returned to Minnesota to attend the largest Veteran's Powwow in the nation on Fond du Lac Reservation. Relative to population, Indian country has the largest number of volunteers that have served our nation's defenses.

The event was an amazing experience for myself and incredibly important for the project. To witness the different generations celebrate their history, culture and sacred beliefs reminded me of what American Indians are fighting for and why. This will play an important role in the story we are telling. The weekend was filled with traditional music, dancing and food.

“A strong sense of identity keeps us functioning as a community despite the chaos and dysfunction. That and a serious sense of humor allows us to keep moving forward and take care of one another, even if some are not ready yet. We stay in our communities even when it seems like we should leave because if we don't, who will? And not as martyrs to the dysfunction but as the ones who can help carry on our culture, language and most importantly love and raise our babies.” - Nikki Crowe, Hearts on the Ground
Identity is a socially and historically constructed concept, defined partly through interactions with family, peers, institutions and media. A strong sense of identity is fundamental for the successful growth of the individual and the community.

From the start U.S. government policies were aimed at destroying Native culture and identity. Politicians throughout history believed that assimilation or annihilation were the only options for dealing with “the Indian problem". Colonel Richard Henry Pratt, who started the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in 1879 famously stated “Kill the Indian, save the Man.” Until the 1970’s Boarding schools were notorious for their mental, physical and sexual abuse towards Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada.

“Rape is a weapon of war, if you want to conquer a people, destroy their culture and rape their women.” Cristine, Hearts on the Ground, 2013

"The original owner of the soil, the man from whom we have taken the country in order that we may make of it a refuge of the world, where all men should be free if not equal, is the only man in it who is not recognized as entitled to the right of a human being.” New York Tribune, 1880

Many American Indian tribes are matriarchal in nature. And almost all ascribe sacred powers to women. The ability to heal, communicate with the Mother Nature, and to bring forth life, whether from the ground or the womb are foremost among them. Women were sacred in these communities.

At the time of first contact European women had very little worth, held no positions of power, were not allowed to own land and according to dominant religious laws were the property and responsibility of men to control and punish as they saw fit. This patriarchal hierarchy often clashed with the Native way of life that valued harmony and balance in society and nature.

The jingle is a sacred dance used for healing and prayer. Whether for physical ailments such as cancer or emotional such as grieving. The jingle dress is the regalia worn for this dance, which includes ornaments with multiple rows of metal cones, which create the jingle.

Because of the sacredness of a healing dance pictures are not allowed. This was taken during what’s called the “Grand Entry”, the ceremonial start of each day at a powwow.
Where "Hearts on the Ground" is at 
We've spent the 18 months writing and rewriting, making contacts, going to and giving lectures and screenings, talking to people, applying to grants, rewriting grants, rethinking our approach and when that was all done, we humbled ourselves and started all over again.

We applied to various grants and funds for a feature length documentary and although we haven't heard back from all, three of the major ones didn't work out so far. After spending quite some time in introspection I've finally decided to get back to work. While there are no regrets for reaching so high so soon, I also recognize the importance of continuing this work and for getting it out.

While my sights are still set on a documentary, we have been exploring smaller steps in the interim to help raise awareness and to garner support for the project. We are working on a short-doc version and exploring ideas for a multi-media article that will include images, video and text. I am also looking for a gallery to partner with to create an interactive exhibition.

Erin and myself are exploring new avenues for funding and different outlets while I work with Hillary to cut a new version of the short-doc.

Thank you for your continued support. Feel free to reach out to me with questions and suggestions. If you have information or contacts that you think might help, don't be shy, drop me a line.

As with all my work prints are for sale, with the proceeds going to the project. Contact me for more information

To make a 100% tax-deductible donation by check or credit card go to
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I will be speaking and pre-screening a short trailer at UC Berkeley:

Exploring the Intersections: Sexual Violence, Colonialism & Trauma
4pm-6pm PST, Febraury 19th, 2015
UC Berkeley's Multicultural Center
Heast Field Annex-D, Berkeley California 
Facebook Event Page

I am very honored to be speaking at UC Berkeley alongside Nikki Crowe at an event organized by Meg Perret. Meg has done a fabulous job putting this together and coming up with a framework that touches on a very important and underreported reality.
This event seeks to spark conversation at UC Berkeley concerning how racialized violence intersects with sexual violence. In particular, this event focuses on the compounding impacts of racism, colonialism and patriarchy in Native American women’s experiences with sexual violence. 
I will also pre-screen the pitch reel for Hearts On The Ground - the documentary I've been working on for the past three years, which will go into production Spring 2015.
Hearts On The Ground
One in two Native American women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; one in three will be raped. Through one woman's evolution from victim to survivor and from hate to forgiveness we look at the state of violence in American Indian communities today and the burden a historical approach of annihilation or assimilation by the U.S. government has placed on them.

The event is free and open to the public, so please join us.

*Sponsored by: 
The Gender Equity Resource Center (GenEq), UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley's Multicultural Center (MCC) 
Center For Race & Gender
Native American Studies Program 
Native American Student Development Office
ASUC Intellectual Community Fund 
*This event is free & open to the public
*ADA accessible

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