Madonna Thunderhawk (b. 1940)

Co-Founder, Women of All Red Nations (WARN); Co-Founder, Lakota Peoples Law Project (LPLP)


Last updated 5/12/2017 at 6:09pm

K.B. Schaller

A woman of many other interests and talents, Madonna Thunderhawk was featured in the PBS documentary We Shall Remain (2009); is recognized for costume designs for the TNT movie Crazy Horse (1996); for her work in Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994); Incident at Oglala (1992). She also designs regalia.

Madonna Thunderhawk is a member of the Oohenumpa Band of the Cheyenne River Sioux. Reared within the restrictive environment of the boarding school era (1860-1978), she was an early advocate of the Red Power Movement which was part of the 1950s-1970s era of U.S. civil rights activism and has participated in every Native American struggle of the modern era.

She is an original member and spokesperson of the American Indian Movement (AIM, organized in 1968) and a founder and spokesperson for the Black Hills Alliance (1970s) to prevent Union Carbide and other companies from uranium mining on land the Lakota deem sacred. Thunderhawk further participated in the occupation of Alcatraz Island (November 20, 1969-June 11, 1971) and the 71-day Wounded Knee siege in 1973.

In 1974, along with Lorelei DeCora, Phyllis Young, and Janet McCloud, Thunderhawk co-founded Women of All Red Nations (WARN). The leading organization of activist Native American women, it advocates for environmental justice, and treaty, economic, and social rights for Native American peoples.

In 2005 Thunderhawk-who holds a bachelor's degree in human services-was a principal organizer, and remains the tribal liaison of the Lakota People's Law Project (LPLP), formed when the staff of the Romero Institute-an interfaith nonprofit law and policy center-met with the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (People of the Seven Council Fires-the Great Lakota/Sioux Nation) to discuss urgent problems affecting the Lakota people.

From these talks the first LPLP office opened in South Dakota in 2006. With other supporting nonprofit organizations, tribal councils and federal agencies, LPLP pressures South Dakota's Department of Social Services to respect rights and traditions that preserve Lakota families and communities.

As part of LPLP, the Lakota Child Rescue Project advocates for more vigilant federal enforcement and reform of the 1978 National Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA), passed in order to curb the high rate of removing Native American children from their homes by public and private agencies.

LCRP also strives to keep Lakota children living with their families or on a reservation and calls for the return of more than 2,000 Lakota children illegally seized from their homes by state authorities and placed in non-Indian foster care.

Also a woman of many other interests and talents, Thunderhawk was featured in the PBS documentary We Shall Remain (2009); is recognized for costume designs for the TNT movie Crazy Horse (1996); for her work in Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994); Incident at Oglala (1992), and also fashions regalia for powwow dancers.


Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, Wishart, David J., Editor, Women of All Red Nations, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2011

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) official website

IMDb mini-bio(1), Madonna Thunderhawk

National Indian Child welfare Association(NICWA) website

Native Voices, 1973: American Indian Movement Occupies Wounded Knee

SpeakOut! website, Madonna Thunderhawk, Community Organizer in Native America

Spirit People Intertribal Family, Women of All Red Nations

Wikipedia, Madonna Thunderhawk

KB Schaller (Cherokee/Seminole heritage) is a journalist, researcher, novelist, and illustrator. A version of this article appears in 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by KB Schaller, winner, 2014 International Book Award, Women's Issues Category. Her books are available through and other bookstores. She lives in South Florida. Email:;


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