Survive, Resist, Endure: Bringing Native Women’s Struggles to Life on Stage

Typing the word “survivance” into the Ms. Blog’s search bar yields no results. So perhaps there is no better way to introduce this term here, as theorized in Native American circles of academe, than via Mary Kathryn Nagle’s play Sliver of a Full MoonSliver is a dramatization of the legislative struggle to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013, and includes powerful testimony by three Native women lucky to be alive to tell their own stories.

“Survivance” is Anishinaabe writer and scholar Gerald Vizenor’s portmanteau of survival and resistance, or survival and endurance, and offers a way to understand both Nagle’s work, and the reasons the formerly abused women have chosen to participate in her play: creating dramatic art as “a renunciation of dominance, tragedy, victimry.”

In this instance, victimry is structured by law. It arose in the wake of Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, a 1978 Supreme Court decision that stripped Indian Nations of the ability to exercise their inherent criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who come onto tribal lands and commit crimes. About 67 percent of the crimes committed against Native women on tribal lands are by non-Native men—so it’s been open season on Native women for almost 40 years.

Read the article at Ms.