Setting Off Down the “Red Road”

March 29, 2013
by Jason M. Breslow Digital Editor

For Native Americans, a life along the red road means a life lived clean and sober. It is a sacred concept, which for Robin Charboneau, was once elusive.

As a young girl, Charboneau was molested by her adopted father, as well as by two of her adopted brothers. The wounds of that abuse led to a dependence on alcohol, and ultimately, a 20-day stay in rehab.

It is upon her return from treatment that filmmaker David Sutherland (The Farmer’s Wife, Country Boys) began filming Charboneau for the two-part series, Kind Hearted Woman, which premieres Monday, April 1 on FRONTLINE.

In the above excerpt from the film, we meet Charboneau at the start of her journey down the red road. That journey begins with a visit from spiritual leader Eugene Hale to Charboneau’s home on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Reservation. He arrives, sage in hand, for a Native American ritual designed to purify the rooms Charboneau once used for drinking.

For the next three years, Sutherland’s cameras followed Charboneau as she battled to confront the aftereffects of the abuse she suffered as a child. While on that path Charboneau discovers her ex-husband molested her daughter, sparking a bruising custody battle over their two children and illuminating the severity of such abuse on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

Kind Hearted Woman traces that fight, as well as Charboneau’s struggles to heal her family, become an advocate for fellow victims, and ultimately, find personal redemption.

Part 1 of Kind Hearted Woman airs Monday, April 1 on most PBS stations or you can watch online, starting at 9 pm EST. Part 2 will air Tuesday, April 2 (check your local listings here).

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