As Native actresses, sisters Isabella and Sophia Madrigal became increasingly aware of the lack of Native representation in the arts (see more about us here). This issue runs deeper than not seeing Native faces in the media; the indigenous perspective is also missing from the national narrative. If there is a lack of Native roles, it is because there is a lack of Indigenous storytellers. In response, the sisters began researching traditional Cahuilla stories in order to uncover these unacknowledged, but vital, narratives. While compiling traditional stories, the sisters became aware of a thread linking them to the contemporary struggle of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The taking of these women, which sparked outrage within Indigenous communities across the globe, did not spur the same unrest amongst the mainstream population, and if this is the case it is likely because these women remain silenced and ignored, their struggles masked.
Isabella and Sophia identified how these ancient stories, passed down through countless generations, can reveal truths and wisdom about the identity of a people and bring strength and healing. They realized that stories can bring forth the dignity of a people in a colonized world, allowing others a window into their experiences. The greatest power of any oppressive force is the single story they impose upon the oppressed until the oppressed believes that story and begins to forget who they are. Revitalizing an Indigenous worldview in Native communities and finding solutions to contemporary struggles can be facilitated through understanding these traditional stories in the context of today. If the narrative that is being told is one that begins with Columbus or colonization and ends with the Indian Termination Policy, you will get a very different perspective than if you begin with our creation stories and end with activism.
The girls hope to restore what has fallen victim to the larger cultural taking of colonization, reflected in the fact that of our stories, songs, and traditions, only a minuscule fraction remain. Through the play, Menil and Her Heart, hope is restored and it is made clear that the Native American experience is not solely one of suffering and defeat but also one of strength and resilience.
Isabella and Sophia created the Native Storytelling website as an Indigenous storytelling avenue, with two purposes. First, to highlight performances of Menil and Her Heart, a Cahuilla play written by Isabella, interweaving ancestral stories alongside a snapshot of contemporary Native life. The second purpose is aimed at providing the knowledge gained in the creation of Menil and Her Heart and Native Storytelling, to all tribes and nations such that their people can bring forward their ancestral stories to address present day adversities.
Native Storytelling, on its initial site page, provides performance dates, times, and locations for Menil and Her Heart. The site page also includes both a hyperlink to learn more about our play as well as a link to learn more about Isabella and Sophia. The site page also includes menu buttons with information about our Team and Process which present our Native Storytelling efforts as a guide for other tribes and nations to follow. Finally, our website provides menu options that allow for any Comments you may have about the play or process as well as information on how to Contact us if you would like further guidance and/or information.
An issue as large as missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls or cultural eradication cannot be overcome alone, rather it will require people of all backgrounds and walks of life coming together to end this silence. To learn more about how you can become an ally in this struggle of activism through art click here (Our Stories, Your Strength). #Nomoresilencedsisters.