We all have stories, some of them imposed on us and some we long for. Stories we know well, and stories that have been forgotten. What are the important stories for your life? What are the stories that can help sustain and heal you? Find your stories.
Menil and Her Heart by Isabella Madrigal. An example of a cultural healing story on a community level.
Isabella, a 16-year-old Cahuilla and Chippewa girl, gathered ancient Cahuilla stories to inform healing for a contemporary issue in the American Indian community and wrote a play. This was part of a project to earn her girl scout gold award. She chose to focus on native representation in the arts, or rather the lack thereof. This lack of representation goes beyond not seeing native faces in the media, because defining stories are also missing. The native narrative is one that has long been pushed to the side and purposefully eroded in an attempt to erase these stories from history.
Those who get to define the parameters of a people’s story, the beginning and the end, ultimately hold the power to restore or steal dignity from any people. Who defines the stories you live by?
Within these ancient stories, Isabella found a unifying theme of the strength and resilience of the Cahuilla people, of all indigenous people. She identified these stories as also being applicable to the contemporary issue of the high rates of disappearances among native women. An important glossed over epidemic in the United States. Eighty-four percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetime, and in some tribal communities, Native women are murdered at ten times the national average. However, 95 percent of these cases were never covered by the national media, and the circumstances surrounding many of these deaths and disappearances remain unknown.
Her play is tailored to and for the American Indian experience, and the understanding the healing needed. Her play is a story of disappearing native women but it is also a story of taking. Not just of women but of culture. She shows that the Native American experience is not solely one of suffering and defeat but of strength and resilience, a way of life that can strengthen and protect all peoples. Her project is a culturally expanded view, a revitalization, revealing knowledge that can help us today.
Isabella recently received a Dragon Kim Scholarship, which will provide further support for play development and her play will be workshopped and performed a second time in a community theatre setting this summer.