Madonna Thunder Hawk (Two Kettle Lakota) is a veteran of every modern Native American struggle, from the occupation of Alcatraz to the siege of Wounded Knee.
One of the original members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), she is a long-time community organizer with a range of experience in Indian rights protection, cultural preservation, economic development and environmental justice.
Thunder Hawk grew up during the 1940s and 50s on the Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota. She came of age in a society dominated by
poverty, alcoholism, government schools and restriction of Native American
tradition and ceremony.
On the reservation, traditions could only be passed on secretly and all
traditional items and clothing were hidden. Rituals such as the sun Dance
were performed underground in secrecy. Madonna became disillusioned with a
life of few opportunities. She left the reservation in the 1960s and moved
with her three children to San Francisco. Amid love beads, civil rights
actions, and anti war slogans, Madonna found a home in a culturally diverse
climate of openness and social activism. Here she began a lifelong
commitment to the survival of her cultural heritage and traveled
throughout the U.S. as an advocate of Native American Treaty rights.
Madonna then returned to South Dakota and raised her family there.
Thunder Hawk was a co-founder and spokesperson for the Black Hills Alliance which blocked Union Carbide from mining uranium on sacred Lakota land. She co-founded Women of All Nations and the Black Hills Protection Committee (later the HeSapa Institute). Thunder Hawk continues to be an eloquent voice for Native America.
Dance is also important in her life as a means of self-expression and cultural celebration. Madonna designs traditional regalia for her children who dance on the Powwow dance circuit. Using new fabrics and contemporary sewing techniques, she produces regalia that are complex and colorful. She also designed costumes for the TNT production of "Crazy Horse."