I feel badly that it was merely two years ago when I began to learn about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) in the United States, Canada and other countries with indigenous communities.
Over 90 percent of Native American women have experienced some sort of violence in their lifetime. 86% of those women are sexual assaulted by a non-tribal member. Our men and children also experience this increased violence. Tribal courts can’t try non-Native individuals, which means non-natives can commit crimes on Native American land—including sexual assault—with virtually zero consequence. In the United States, mainstream society fails to address this crisis even though it’s at epidemic proportions. Indigenous peoples are raped, assaulted, abused, murdered, and kidnapped at rates far above the national average. This attack on our bodies is akin to attacks on our land. The health and safety of indigenous people is directly linked to the health and safety of our land. Our indigenous people’s body sovereignty is entwined with the sovereignty of our First Nations.Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women-Land and Body Sovereignty- Seeding Sovereignty
There is a direct correlation between increased rates of sexual abuse, trafficking, and domestic violence against women and children in regions where fossil fuel extraction companies set up “man camps” to house workers. Our goal is to grow the network of MMIW activists and bring light to this problem with a platform to connect people, communities, and resources across Turtle Island in the United States and Canada.
The women at Seeding Sovereignty work hard to prevent our sisters from going missing and/or murdered and help raise awareness about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
I think the first time I heard about this tragedy was in February, 2017, when a group of us rode in a van trip organized by Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa, to Minneapolis, to demonstrate in front of the US Bank headquarters, because of the fossil fuel projects they fund. This was the weekend the Super Bowl was played there in the US Bank Stadium, so we had a huge audience. Both Christine Nobiss of Seeding Sovereignty and Indigenous Iowa, and Donnielle Wanatee from the Meskwaki Nation spoke about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)
Then while walking 94 miles, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, the first week of September, 2018, on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, I learned a lot more about MMIW from those who had been directly affected. For example, in the process of sharing stories about photography, videography and drones with a new friend, the story slowly evolved about his work in using drones to search for missing women.
During the March, my friend Foxy Onefeather often carried a MMIW poster.
The story of this piece is of a sister being engulfed by the blacksnake, and its poison. She holds a candle that has burned for what seem like an endless time in the darkness. Protecting her spirit are two red butterflies that carry the prayers of the people for our murdered and missing. For our women and children we must rise. For our water and the connection that the earth and women share, we must rise. For their futures, we rise.Jackie Fawn, the artist of the poster above
The purpose of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was for a small group of Native and non native people to get to know each other, so we can work on things of common concern. One of the first efforts was when the group below visited Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley to talk with his staff about two pieces of legislation related to Native communities, One was the SURVIVE Act which is intended to get more funds from the Victims of Crime Act to Native communities. The second is Savanna’s Act, which allows tribal police forces to have jurisdiction over non-Native people on Native land, access to criminal databases and expanded collection of crime statistics. Senator Grassley was involved in the passage of the Victims of Crime Act.
Today was the National Day of Awareness for MMIW.
Wear red and join us in solidarity as we honor the Lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women with a rally at the West Capitol Terrace Stage in the Iowa State Capitol. Raise awareness, stand against injustice and show support!National Day of Awareness for MMIW Rally
If you look closely you’ll see a red dress hanging near the event speakers.
Red is bold and direct, and yet complex. It can express vitality but also violence. Métis artist Jaime Black intended both readings when she hung more than a dozen red dresses along the River Walk that meanders past the north side of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It’s the U.S. debut of “The REDress Project,” which has been installed in both urban and rustic sites in Black’s native Canada.In the galleries: Hanging garments symbolize violence against indigenous women, Mark Jenkings, Washington Post, March 15, 2019
Because they’re disembodied, the garments appear ghostly and ominous. That’s also intended. Black derived the image from a painting on the cover of a book about the experiences of a woman who identifies as Métis (descendants of First Nations people and European, mostly French, settlers). The artist uses red dresses to symbolize the estimated 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Now that a few of the hundreds of donated dresses flutter in Washington, the project can also be seen to represent violence against native women in the United States and the rest of the Americas.