Practical Feminism with Sunny Clifford

Head shot of Sunny Clifford.
Sunny Clifford

Sunny Clifford is an indigenous Lakota woman from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She is working actively toward bettering the lives of Native women by drawing attention to their personal experiences and struggles. Last year she led a campaign to improve access to emergency contraception for women dependent upon Indian Health Services for health care. Sunny and her sister Serena Clifford are featured in a new documentary titled Young Lakota, about the political struggle on their reservation and in their state around legislation that would have banned abortion in South Dakota.

You can find Sunny on Twitter (@SunnyClifford).

1. How would you characterize your activism? In my mind, I think of you as a Lakota reproductive justice rockstar. Is that accurate? Why or why not?

I would characterize my activism as bringing awareness about the injustices and atrocities that Indigenous women (which also boils down to all women) have faced historically, as well as currently. Specifically I feel it’s necessary to have my focus of discussions about Native women as I’ve always felt left out of mainstream media and culture because I am a native woman.

2. What has been your most effective tool for connecting to other activists? Or, perhaps, what are the most effective forms of communication for spreading your message and/or affecting change?

Twitter and social media have been extremely effective in connecting me with other activists. I love the internet and all the connections I am able to make through it.

I am a subject in a documentary titled Young Lakota. We had our second screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival recently (February 19th). I was fortunate enough to attend, thanks to the Chicken and Egg Pictures organization. The audience of the film were warm and receptive. I’ve found this film, so far, to be a massive tool for spreading my message of hope for change for women.

3. What are one or two pressing issues that you wish people were paying more attention to? Why?

I wish more people were paying attention to the Violence Against Women Act with provisions for tribal women, immigrants, and LGBT communities. I also wish more people paid attention to the exploitation of lands the world over, as it is a direct exploitation and assault against women’s bodies.

4. What do you love about South Dakota?

I love the land in South Dakota. We have a vast prairie, with one of the largest natural prairie eco-systems in the world; the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. I love listening to the Western Meadowlark, with its cheerful song that celebrates the summers on the prairie. I love seeing various birds of prey on any given day, sitting alongside the road or flying high in the sky, searching for their meal. I love the Red-Tail Hawk’s piercing song. I love the prairie sunsets with various colors of pastels streaming across a never ending sky over a sea of golden grass. I love the summer time in South Dakota.

5. Favorite under-the-radar writers and/or blogs.

I love the work of Jessica Danforth (formerly Yee) with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and I think the Save Wiyabi Project does a great job.

This is part of an on-going series of interviews with activists around the world who are putting their feminism into practice.

If you have any suggestions of people we should interview (including yourself), please write us at flyover[at]flyoverfeminism[dot]com.

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