“Kind Hearted Woman” is a PBS ‘Frontline’ & ‘Independent Lens’ documentary that is now streaming online (Internet) at its’ official website. Because of the mature content, TV viewer discretion is advised. This documentary premiered last April 2013 to rave reviews by critics. The two part episode follows a Native American ‘Dakota Tribe’ woman named Robin Charboneau. She is of the ‘Spirit Lake’ Indian ancestry. Her Indian name is pronounced in English as “Kind Hearted Woman.” Her story is a three year journey on the struggle to provide for her two kids, but most of all for herself after a divorce.
“Kind Hearted Woman” opens with Robin walking on the highway in a brutally cold winter. It is 8 degrees below zero. She is carrying a bag & pulling on a rolling suitcase against the freezing wind. She reaches her trailer home on the ‘Spirit Lake’ Indian reservation. She asks a spiritual adviser to burn ‘sage’ weeds to purify her home. She drank alcohol in that house before she went into treatment. The temptation to drink alcohol is overwhelming & she says, “I could get a ride faster to the bar than to the grocery store.”
Robin writes poetry & is encouraged to get a spot on the local native radio program. When she does get the chance she reads about the abuse & rape she suffered at the hands of her foster Dad & foster brothers. You can hear the anger in her voice, but also the courage plus the strength she felt by confronting her abusers. She doesn’t remember nothing about the first rape but only waking up in the emergency room. Robin’s dream is to help others who have been abused on her Indian reservation.
Robin wants to go back to school & get a better education. She has a chance to attend the university in Minnesota. That means she has to move off the reservation to another state. She has a talk with her daughter & son. She is very open with her kids as she nurtures them & loves them each moment she has with them. There is an Indian song Robin taught them & they always sing it together. That song has hope which brings them comfort & a little bit of peace. Robin says she tries to get ahead but feels something is holding her back. She drives to her mother’s graveside to ask for help.
We always see Robin walking on the highway alone with her purse & another bag. The loneliness engulfs her. She talks about how her own family doesn’t help her when complete strangers do while staying at the YMCA. She visits her kids after borrowing a car to drive back to the reservation. Her heart breaks as she leaves them with her ex-husband. That dirt road she drives on is the loneliest place on earth. She cannot control her bitter & sad tears. Robin’s life has to move forward even if she has to walk toward her uncertain future. In her eyes though is complete determination & hope.
All of this is seen at the 45 minute mark in part 1 of 2 episodes of this powerful, honest & compelling documentary. It really is only the beginning of the hardships to come with Robin’s daughter being molested, the tribe & the battle over custody of the kids. She even meets up with her brother who is also struggling with alcohol. Plus, meeting her real father who denied her right from the start. Robin pulls it all together though to move forward with all of her being.