The untold story of the involuntary sterilization of Native American women by the Indian Health Service well into the 1970s.
Directed by Lorna Tucker
Produced by Ged Doherty, Colin Firth, Lorna Tucker,
Cinematography: Andrea Vecchiato
Editor: Claire Ferguson
Native Advisor: LaNada War Jack
A Raindog Films Production in association with Bedlam Productions
[Note: Community screenings of AMA can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"Should be watched by all who want to understand the impacts of genocide and colonization within the United States." Nicole Lim, Exec Dir, California Indian Museum and Cultural Center
Amá tells an important and untold story: the abuses committed against Native American women by the US Government during the 1960s and 70s. The women were removed from their families and sent to boarding schools. They were subjected to forced relocation away from their traditional lands and, perhaps worst of all, they were subjected to involuntary sterilization.
The result of nine years painstaking and sensitive work by filmmaker Lorna Tucker, the film features the testimony of many Native Americans, including three remarkable women who tell their stories – Jean Whitehorse, Yvonne Swan and Charon Asetoyer – as well as a revealing and rare interview with Dr. Reimert Ravenholt whose population control ideas were the framework for some of the government policies directed at Native American women.
It is estimated over a twenty-year period between 1960 and 1980 that tens of thousands of Native American women were sterilized without their knowledge or consent. Due to poor record keeping during this era the number may in fact be much higher. Many of these women went to their graves having suffered this incredible abuse of power.
The film ends with a call to action – to back a campaign to get a formal apology from the US government, which would then open the door for the women to bring a lawsuit.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2019
Copyright Date: 2018
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-24-0
"Thank you for taking back our history and telling it from our narrative. This film is so important because these stories need to be heard - this is the untold history of Native America. Indigenous people hold an intimate knowledge that our women are sacred - we carry life, and the very act of pregnancy is an assertion of sovereignty and resilience. Amá seeks to reaffirm our history so that we can continue to center our women. CSVANW hopes this film begins a critical conversation about breaking cycles of violence that have affected our women for far too long."
Angel Charley, Interim Executive Director, Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women
"Essential watching...Coercion is still happening and there is very little accountability."
Clementine de Pressigny, i-D Magazine
"I would like to pay respect to the elders, both present and past, who have had the courage to tell their stories - we need more documentaries like this. We offer classes in American Indian Health and Wellness, and without fail, my students state that they had no idea of these atrocities, and the fact that they are still happening in the United States is beyond their belief. The US must apologize for the horrendous actions of their medical staff, and admit to the vast amount of indigenous knowledge that has been lost due to their lack of funding for health services. I am teaching the truth in my classes at the University - students are shocked and upset, wondering why the truth has been hidden."
Dr. Linda Bane Frizzell, Eastern Cherokee/Lakota, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
"Full marks...for bringing this shocking story to the fore, exposing an injustice inflicted on women like Jean who are still waiting for an apology from the federal government."
Leslie Felperin, The Guardian
"This important film will no doubt become a staple in activist and scholarly communities as we strive for a more just world. Amá reminds us that reproductive justice is not just about the right to end a pregnancy; at its core, reproductive justice is also about the right to be pregnant, give birth, and raise healthy children."
Sarah Deer, Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The University of Kansas, Author, The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America
"Shocking. A moving, must-see documentary about how a generation of Native American women suffered from coerced sterilization via the United States Government - an almost completely hidden tragedy still within living memory. This is the latest testimony as to how Native American women have been targeted with systematic erasure and silencing. Do not miss this well told and desperately important film."
Naomi Wolf, Journalist, Activist, Author, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women and Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love
"Amá should be watched by all who want to understand the impacts of genocide and colonization within the United States. Well into the 1970's the federal government used tactics of persecution, extermination and denial in efforts to eradicate future generations of Native people. This film sheds light on the truth and illustrates the power of Native women in demonstrating resiliency and resistance."
Nicole Lim, Executive Director, The California Indian Museum and Cultural Center
"Meet some amazing women who are still fighting oppression...[Amá] will go a long way in opening up this conversation and enforcing solidarity between women."
Holly Mosley, Female First
"Powerful, heartbreaking, and enraging...The voices, testimonies and ideas of three native American women and activists accompany the viewer in a journey that is a tale of injustices suffered and never repaid, but also - and most importantly - a tale of resilience and resistance, of struggle and solidarity. I will screen Lorna Tucker's beautiful documentary in my classrooms and discuss it with my students: it is a powerful introduction to the imbrication of gender, ethnicity, race, and class."
Cinzia Arruzza, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The New School, co-author, Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto
"A passionate insight into an enormous injustice...The bravery in sharing their stories is undeniable. These women won't be quiet any longer."
"Traveling on a journey to connect the dots as to why Native women have been systematically sterilized without their informed consent, Amá weaves through historical acts of oppression focusing on a Native woman's lived experience. It is impossible to watch the film and not be moved by the barriers and challenges endured in the past four or five decades by Native women to continue as mothers and culture bearers of their communities. This film is an important resource to understand the current advocacy on behalf of the rights of Native women."
Angelique EagleWoman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate, Visiting Professor of Law, Hamline University
"Amá provides support for Indigenous women's demands that the U.S. answer for its genocidal practices to exterminate Indigenous peoples and to examine its human rights record."
Jennifer Nez Denetdale (Dine'), Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico
"Heart-wrenching...Encourage[s] women to step forward."
Kaleem Aftab, Cineuropa
"A crucially important documentary."
Alexa Dalby, Dog and Wolf
"Amà skillfully fills in an important (and enraging) part of reproductive history in the United States. The film has the added feature of showing seldom-seen footage of matters ranging from Native American boarding schools to leading figures in the population control movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Carole Joffe, Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California - San Francisco, Co-editor, Reproduction and Society: Interdisciplinary Readings
"While Amá is undeniably beautiful, in the way it's shot and told, and hauntingly actual, it is not just the power of the film as a work of art that makes it so perfect. It's how perfectly it fits into the age of Me Too movement and the newfound feminism of the Millennials."
E. Nina Rothe, Journalist
"Filmmaker Lorna Tucker's documentary examines the shocking and horrific practice of involuntary sterilization of Native American women during the 1960s and '70s, a practice that was sanctioned by the U.S. government...[The film] brings to the forefront this despicable practice that helped wipe out smaller tribes and decimated future generations."
Sue-Ellen Beauregard, Booklist
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DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
Host a community screening
The Film's Website
Awards and Festivals
Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Global Health Film Festival
F-NO: The Public Health Film Festival of New Orleans
Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival
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... more Reviews
"Recommended...Amá is an important beginning into our understanding and reconciliation of the wrongs done to native women."
Kay Hogan Smith, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Powerful and disturbing...This film makes the case for skepticism about the prospects of improving the world through a single lens, that is, attacking complex problems such as poverty or a lack of basic healthcare by using a process of social engineering directed to one aspect in isolation, and most critically, doing so in the absence of a moral compass."
Robert Abrams, Weill Cornell Medicine, Medical Humanities Blog
"This intersection of the personal and the political not only teaches us about sterilization abuse in North America but also details the ways that it exists as an extension of multiple historical and ongoing efforts to diminish Native sovereignty...This film would be an asset in lessons on Native American history and reproductive justice...Amá is an incredibly rich film [that] offers educators a powerful text for lessons on how ideas about race and gender are mobilized to implement and justify state violence."
Natalie Lira, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Films for the Feminist Classroom
"Whitehorse offers a voice and face to broader processes and procedures of colonization - reminding us that colonialism continues to the present day. It is not a relic of history. Sterilizations continue. As practice and policy, sterilization is about the control of Indigenous people and it is an element of ongoing assimilation."
Thomas McIlwraith, University of Guelph, Public Anthropologist Journal