By Kevin Thranow
A large crowd packed the theatre at SGU’s Lakota Studies Tipi last Tuesday for the premiere of a new documentary called “Blood Memory.”
In attendance were Sandy White Hawk, the founder and director of First Nation’s Repatriation Institute, director/producer Drew Nicholas and producer Megan Whitmer.
The film follows White Hawk’s journey as a Sicangu Lakota who was adopted by white parents as a young child and later goes on a search to rediscover her native identity and culture. Along the way the documentary confronts the topics of forced family separation, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), battles over “blood quantum” in determining tribal membership, government claims of a child’s “best interests,” and the concept of cultural trauma passing from generation to generation - “blood memory.”
After light refreshments in the tipi lobby, guests filled the lower level theatre for the screening. Marlies White Hat, director of SGU’s Tiwahe Glu Kini Pi, introduced Sandy White Hawk, who spoke about her experience with adoption and how the movie came to fruition, starting with a chance encounter when a young Native American woman overheard director Nicholas discussing topics for future projects with a group of filmmaker friends. The project took over eight years to complete.
In promotional materials for the film, Nicholas recalled his amazement when he first heard about the forced Indian adoptions, of which as a young white man he had absolutely no knowledge. It motivated him to learn everything he could about the subject and created a deeply-felt empathy for those who were taken from their families.
“Blood Memory” provides first-hand accounts from adopted/fostered individuals, boarding school survivors, relatives, and those working for families and children throughout Indian Country.