We, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), are grieving the news of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind’s murder, adding to the already heavy burden our people carry due to the countless murdered and missing Native women and girls throughout the country. While we, and so many others, feel grief, pain, sorrow, anger and frustration, we know that as a collective movement, we must also find the strength to channel these feelings into action. There is so much work to be done to end this horrific legacy and history of violence against our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties, and friends.
We cannot do this heavy work without first grounding ourselves in prayer, and so our first call to action is to lift up our collective voices in prayer. We offer up prayers for little Haisley Jo and her father Ashton Matheny, the entire Fontaine-Greywind and Matheny families, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Spirit Lake Indian tribes, as well as the family and friends of the countless other Native women and girls murdered or missing.
Our grief is heavy. We have been here too many times before and we want it to stop. The current reports of abduction and murder of American Indian women and girls are alarming and represent one of the most horrific aspects of the spectrum of violence committed against Native women. The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations. Often, these disappearances or murders are connected to crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. The intersection of gender based violence and MMIW is heavily intertwined.
We strive to lift the voices of the families and communities impacted by all murdered and missing Native women and girls. We strive to support grassroots activism, as we see, too often, the local response is the only response. It is an abomination that many times the only searches for our missing women are organized by family and friends, and not law enforcement. We aim to raise awareness and increase justice on a national level. But our work must not focus merely on improving the official response when a Native woman or girl is missing. We must restore our women to a place of honor, respect and sacredness so that these crimes can finally end.
We at NIWRC would like to take this opportunity to send strength and support, and hold as relatives, the many tribal advocates and local programs, Native organizations, and tribal coalitions offering direct support to Savanna and Ashton’s families, her tribal communities of Spirit Lake Dakota/Turtle Mountain Chippewa, as well as the larger communities of North Dakota and Minnesota. We stand in solidarity with these many Strong Hearts.
“Just know that we are with you, grieving with you, sending prayers for the precious baby, family, community, and still keeping our sleeves up as to what we can do for our sisters, communities, villages, and Nations. We stand in support for you and the sacredness of your work & advocacy that you do by and for the people.”- NIWRC Staff
NIWRC is committed to increasing safety and access to justice for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian women and girls, to bringing awareness to this critical issue of missing and murdered Native women, and to preventing future acts of violence in our Nations. Together, we will never stop fighting for justice.
Lucy Simpson, Navajo
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Explore more information and resources on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women:
- NIWRC’s “Statement of first National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls on May 5th, 2017”
- NIWRC Recorded webinar-May 5th, 2017 “Honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” In 2005, the movement for the safety of Native women led the struggle to include under the Violence Against Women Act a separate title for Native women called Safety for Indian Women. One of the findings of this title was that during the period of 1979 through 1992, homicide was the third-leading cause of death of Indian females aged 15 to 34, and 75 percent were killed by family members or acquaintances. Since that time, a study by the U.S. Department of Justice has found that in some tribal communities, American Indian women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average. Over the last decade awareness of this national issue has increased but more must be done at all levels to stop the disappearances and save lives. To address an issue it must first be acknowledged.
- Indian Country Today article-March 2017 on NIWRC’s Congressional Briefing. “‘We All Know Someone’: Tribal Community, Advocates Seek to Honor Missing and Murdered Native American Women.”
- Restoration Magazine-June 2017: http://www.niwrc.org/files/Restoration-V14.2.pdf