If you haven’t seen “Young Lakota,” the documentary that explores the intersection of reproductive justice and indigenous rights through the perspective of then 21-year-old Sunny Clifford and her community at the Pine Ridge Reservation, stop what you’re doing and see where it’s playing near you.
(I’m serious. Search right now. This week’s Feministing Five can wait…Perfect, glad you’re incorporating it in your weekend plans!)
“Young Lakota” stunned me. Starting off wondering how she would be able to help her community upon returning from college, Sunny learns to assert her voice and her activism while protecting her community against restrictive legislation that would have severely limited women’s rights to access safe abortions. Throughout the film, she beautifully articulates the basis for her political engagement and her personal empowerment. But the moment that really caught my breath was when she powerfully stated, “I don’t think anyone belongs to any person other than yourself.”
We were obviously thrilled to briefly chat with Sunny about how her life has changed seven years later and how she continues her activism for indigenous rights and reproductive justice.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Sunny Clifford.
Suzanna Bobadilla: So the documentary recorded you and your community back in 2006. Now it’s 2013: how has life changed for you since filming wrapped up?
Sunny Clifford: 2006? So it was like a lifetime ago? Everything is completely different for me since it was in the film. I actually got married and I’m expecting a child February. Everything is completely different. I’m not married with the guy in the film. Everyone always asks about that. I always think, ”What did I get myself into?” Everyone wants to know my personal business. (Laughs.)
Also, I moved off my reservation of March of last year. I live in Southern California. A lot of the activism that I do now is online—I’m fortunate enough to have internet access—I didn’t really have access on the reservation.
SB: What guides your online activism? What perspective to do you try to bring to work you online?
SC: I’m on Twitter and Facebook. On my Twitter, I like to share article that pertain to indigenous culture—that are about where I’m from. I used to dialogue from people where I’m not where I’m from and make connections with our indigenous feminists. Facebook is more centered around my community back at home. Also, almost a year ago I started a petition on Change.org that garnered over a hundred thousand signatures. That was online activism at its finest.
SB: What would you say to young people that want to get involved with the reproductive justice movement but aren’t quite sure where to start?
SC: I was lucky in that I was able to make connections with people who were campaigning politically, like Cecilia [Fire Thunder]. And word passed on that there were two young girls–my twin is in the film also–word got around that there were these two young girls who just wanted to help. And people would just give us pamphlets and signs and basically we would go door to door and talk to people about what was going on. That’s a great start. I guess I got lucky I feel like I got lucky in that sense because it was just a matter of expressing your wanting and your need to do something.
SB: What are other experts or resources that you think that people should check out?
SC: Jessica Danforth and her staff at the Native News Sexual Health Network. They also have a website and a lot of resources for indigenous feminists activists.
SB: You’re stranded on a desert island—you have one drink, one food, one feminist, what do you pick?
SC: My one food would probably be one food that’s called bapa soup and it’s basically dried deer meat with hominy. And my drink would be, right now, I’m really into Earl Grey Tea. And my feminist—Wilma Mankiller.
Suzanna Bobadilla runs the Feministing Five and works in the Bay Area.