We at the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center have been organizing and preparing for the 2018 Women Are Sacred Conference this June 26th-28th, in Albuquerque, New Mexico! The Women Are Sacred Conference is one of the oldest and largest gatherings of advocates, survivors, tribal domestic and sexual violence programs, tribal community members, tribal leadership, law enforcement and tribal court personnel dedicated to ending violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and children. Be sure to get signed up for the early bird registration (Before April 1st) and explore our Conference webpage for updates, hotel and travel information, and conference events and vendor/exhibitor information. Please consider bringing items to the Conference to contribute to the Wall Honoring Our Grandmothers, nominating a leader in your community for the Tillie Black Bear Memorial Award and signing up for WAS Talks, a new initiative inspired by the national TED Talks format- a forum to share our stories, life voices and end the violence!
In this 2018 Spring edition of Advocate! Beyond the Shelter Doors e-newsletter, you will find: updates from the NativeLove Youth program’s activities during February teen dating violence awareness month, a highlight on Sarah Deer in NIWRC’s Speaker’s Bureau, NIWRC’s Safety for Native Women events in Washington, a wellness circle post on “Finding Healing in Helping”, and information on upcoming spring awareness months activities and calendar for Women’s History Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and May 5th National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In the Featured Art section, we share This River Runs Red, a Cherokee style single-weave basket by artist Shan Goshorn. This piece was created to point to statistics of today’s disproportionately higher rate of violence toward Native women and also to humanize women who have lost their lives. The Red River, which runs from Winnipeg, Canada to northern South Dakota, has become known as a place where the bodies of women are regularly recovered making its name (Red River) heartbreakingly fitting. The Featured Art section is where we share art forms as a means of social change including new documentaries or films, art exhibits and positive/uplifting projects connecting to preventing and healing from domestic or family violence. Suggestions welcome.
We would like to thank each advocate, each mother, each sister, each aunt, each daughter, each grandmother, each man, and each child for their continued support of the movement to end domestic violence and for making NIWRC the valuable organization it is today.
Lucy Rain Simpson
Executive Director, NIWRC
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) will be hosting the Women Are Sacred (WAS) Conference at the beautiful Hotel Albuquerque on June 26-28, 2018.
- Women Are Sacred Information Page: http://www.niwrc.org/was
- Conference registration: https://was2018.
- Youth registration (Limit 25 spots): https://was2018youth.
- WAS Talks registration: https://goo.gl/
- Vendor registration: https://
- WAS Tillie Black Bear Award nomination: https://goo.gl/
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has approved OVW tribal grantees to use their grant funds to attend the Women Are Sacred Conference 2018 in Albuquerque NM, June 26-28, 2018, for the following:• OVW Tribal Coalitions Program, you do not need to submit a GAN for up to TWO people to attend.
• OVW Tribal Governments Program, you do not need to submit a GAN for up to THREE people to attend.
• OVW Tribal Sexual Assault Program, you do not need to submit a GAN for up to TWO people to attend.
March is Women’s History Month (Persistence & Resistance)
- Thursday, March 8th-International Women’s Day
- Saturday, March 10th–NIWRC’s Speakers Bureau member Cindy Lynn (Cayuga Nation), presents Recover, Rebuild, Reclaim Self at the International Women’s Day event in Niagara Falls.
- NOMINATE: Inspiring Native Women from your family or tribal community. In honor of the sacredness of Native women and our ancestral grandmothers, we are sharing some of these women’s stories on our social media platforms, in hopes of honoring their legacies, inspiring others, and celebrating their leadership. If you have a story of an inspiring historic or current Native woman to share, please let us know by sending us a short description and photo! We would love to hear from you–please contact us at [email protected]
- WEAR ORANGE FOR DV: Sunday, March 25th: Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment! Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts.
- REGISTER: NIWRC’s Webinar “Sovereignty of the Soul: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America” March 26th, 2018 at 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM CDT. Understanding the scope of sexual assaults committed against American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) within the context of intimate partner relationships and supporting timely tribal government responses can help reduce the trauma experienced by Native victim survivors of sexual assault. This webinar will focus on historical and contemporary sexual violence experienced by AI/ANs and share policy recommendations focused on the intersection of sexual assault and the related crimes of domestic violence and other related issues and limitations faced by tribal nations. The webinar aims to reduce disparities in the response to sexual assault of tribal victims by increasing awareness of the need for adequate and culturally appropriate responses to sexual assault in tribal communities. Partner/Presenter: Sarah Deer (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) has worked to end violence against women for over 25 years and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2014.
- REGISTER: March 28-30– Workshop Trauma, Domestic Violence & Substance Abuse: Culturally-based Healing, in Rapid City, SD. This workshop is appropriate for advocates, law enforcement, court personnel, housing, social services, medical personnel and community members. Any person working in a helping profession, or has experienced or witnessed addiction and violence will benefit from this workshop. Download more information here-March2018brochure . Questions? Contact Brenda Hill at [email protected] or 605-545-0529 or Karen Artichoker at [email protected] or 605-407-9425.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Abuse Prevention Month
- SHARE: 30 Days of SAAM digital cards on social media.In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, NIWRC will be posting UPDATED digital postcards with facts about sexual violence in Native communities, and our movement to end it, each day this April. We share these with the aim of raising awareness on this severe crisis, encouraging others to join the movement against sexual violence, and raising our voices in the name of tribal sovereignty once again to bring safety to Native nations. Please share these photos with your views on how sexual violence impacts your community, and take a stand using the #ViolenceIsNotMyTradition hashtag!
- WEAR TEAL: April 3rd-SAAM Day of Action. Wear teal to show your support for victims and survivors of sexual assault.
- WATCH: April 13th-Screening of Wind River with Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Tribal Coalitions, NIWRC board of directors at Pala Casino Resort & Spa in Pala, CA.
- WALK for SAAM: Sunday, April 15th-Join the Southern California SAAM Walk on the Pala Indian Reservation. Originally launched at the La Jolla Indian Reservation, the walk today continues by traveling to different Indian reservations throughout Southern California and gathers more than 2,000 participants. For more information, call (760) 742-8628.
- WEAR ORANGE FOR DV: Wednesday, April 25th- Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment! Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts.
- DOWNLOAD: February 2018 issue of Restoration magazine with NIWRC’s Speaker’s Bureau member Sarah Deer’s (Muscogee Creek Nation) article Sovereignty of the Soul: Exploring the Intersection of Rape Law Reform and Federal Indian Law (page 22-25) and a short article The End of Rape in Native America (page 25) that includes questions tribal communities can ask to address rape in their community.
- EXPLORE: NIWRC’s Online Resource Library for past webinars, reports, etc.
- PURCHASE: In preparation for SAAM, the NIWRC announces the availablity of two awareness tools you can use to help raise public awareness about sexual violence in your community. We are offering the Ending Sexual Violence Against Native Women from the Roots Up poster for $5 and Sexual Violence is NOT our Tradition bumper sticker for $1.
- DOWNLOAD: What To Do When You’re RAPED: An ABC Handbook for Native Girls by the Native Women’s Health Education Resource Center.
- DOWNLOAD: Tribal Legal Code Resource: Sexual Assault and Stalking Law. A guide for drafting or revising victim-centered tribal law and policy Institute.
- READ: Addressing Technology Misuse in the Context of Sexual Assault by the National Network to End Domestic Violence. As technology becomes woven into every aspect of society, offenders misuse the technology in sexual assault. Just as the dynamics of sexual assault differ from domestic violence, the misuse of technology looks different when sexual assault occurs outside of an intimate partner relationship.
- EXPLORE: Child Abuse Prevention Month resources at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/
May is Mothers Day & Awareness Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
- WEAR RED for #MMIW: Saturday, May 5th: National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- ORGANIZE for #MMIW: Saturday, May 5th: Read tips, readings, suggestions for organizing a community event at your tribe to honor and bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women! Read here for more information.
- JOIN: Why We Wear Red social media movement by Native Women in Films and Television. #WhyWeWearRED A National Global Campaign initiative that aims to bring awareness to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, fight sexual harassment, assault, human trafficking, inequality for women in all kinds of workplaces, violence against the land is violence against women.
- Sunday, May 13th: Mother’s Day!
- WEAR ORANGE FOR DV: Friday, May 25th: Help UNite to End Violence Women’s Empowerment! Organize a morning run, wear orange, take a selfie with your group and post to social media using #UNitetoendviolence & #NIWRCStrongHearts.
- LISTEN: The Ongoing Tragedy of Missing Native American Women by Native American Calling, Jan. 2018.The family of Ashley Loring HeavyRunner (Blackfeet) are desperate for information about the 21-year-old. She was last seen in June in Browning Montana. Also, family members of Olivia Lone Bear are offering a reward for information after the 33-year-old mother of five went missing from the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation in October. The two recent cases are a reminder of what advocates say is a serious issue. Canada has made strides in confronting the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But there remain gaps in information and solutions about Native American women. Features interviews with Caroline LaPorte (immediate descendant of Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) – senior Native affairs policy advisor for the Strong Hearts Native Help Line and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. with Annita Lucchesi (Southern Cheyenne descendant) PhD student at University of Lethbridge.
- DOWNLOAD: Increasing Public Awareness of Missing and Murdered Native Women, June 2017 issue of Restoration magazine.
Radio Show for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
On Valentine’s Day, Native America Calling invited the NativeLove Project along with youth Kristen Butcher (Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla and NativeLove Youth Ambassador) and Tanae Le Claire (Yankton Sioux and 2017 NativeLove Youth Challenger Winner) as guests on a special radio show to address Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The radio show focused on social media and dating apps are among the places teens go to find love and companionship. Occasionally puppy love turns unhealthy or even abusive. It can be hard for parents to track. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. We’re talking about healthy dating for young people and how parents can talk to their children about it. What tips do you give to your teens about dating?
Kristen Butcher (enrolled in the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians and Lakota Sioux – NativeLove youth ambassador
Rebecca Balog (Oglala, Mohawk and Lautari) – National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center grant manager and NativeLove team leader
Tanae Le Claire (Yankton Sioux) – 2017 NativeLove challenge winner
Great job & thank you ladies!
STATEMENT-NIWRC and NativeLove Youth Respond to School Shootings Youth, Schools, Guns, and Intimate partner Violence
Take the NativeLove Youth Survey & Win!
Take the NativeLove Survey and enter for a chance win a gift card to thentvs.com, beyondbuckskin.com, nsrgnts.com, or any other Native owned business. The first prize winner will be awarded $250 with a $50 award for our second-place winner to be used at sistersky.com. We hope that you will help the NativeLove team and our important work with the youth by sharing your voice!
NativeLove Visits UMOn’HOn Nation School and University of South Dakota for TDVAM!
The NativeLove team presented at the UMOn’HOn Nation School on Thursday February 8th 2018. NativeLove worked with Vida Stabler, Culture and Language teacher, on presenting healthy teen dating and relationships, sex trafficking, respecting boundaries, and being a good relative to 8th-12th grades classes. Youth were interested in hearing real examples of healthy and unhealthy dating.
The NativeLove team went to the University of South Dakota-Vermillion the next day, Friday February 9th and worked with Marisa Miakonda Cummings, ICARE Program Coordinator. Together they hosted a talking circle discussing sexual assault at the Native American Community Center with students and staff. After the talking circle, a free screening of Wind River was held in the student center, and a panel after the film included Elise Boxer from the Native Studies program, Marisa Cummings of I CARE and Rose Quilt and Princella RedCorn from Native Love.
TDVAM TWEET CIRCLE
Check out the #N8vLove Game Tweet Circle on Twitter using #N8vLove & #TDVAM. The NativeLove team was pleased to partner with the StrongHearts Native Helpline, We R Native, Native Alliance Against Violence (Oklahoma Tribal Coalition), Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (New Mexico Tribal Coalition) & That’s Not Cool for a Tweet Circle!
STATEMENT-NativeLove & the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center Recognizes Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) is a national effort to raise awareness and protect teens from violence. How can you make a difference? By encouraging your school, community-based organizations, tribal leaders, parents, and teens to join together to prevent teen dating violence– both at home and in our communities. Those of us in Native communities often hear jokes about “Indian lovin” as waking up with a hickey and a black eye—that’s not love, it’s dating violence. The NativeLove project gives us the opportunity to reframe what NativeLove really is, so we can change our thoughts and actions to restore how we love, honor, and treat each other, which is characterized by respect, kindness, and compassion….
Sarah Deer recently started a new job at the University of Kansas, where she is a Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Public Affairs and Administration. She continues to provide keynotes and workshops for a variety of anti-violence organizations and tribal communities. Sarah began her work in the anti-violence movement in 1993, when she started working as a volunteer rape victim advocate in Lawrence, Kansas.
Sarah’s scholarly interests lie at the intersection of Federal Indian law and victim’s rights. She focuses her legal work on addressing gaps in the criminal justice system that marginalize Native women, Two-Spirit Native people and Native children. Working with another NIWRC’s Speaker’s Bureau member, Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee), she co-authored an amicus brief in the Dollar General v. Mississippi Choctaw case.
Sarah’s newest book The Beginning and End of Rape was published in 2015 and has received three book awards. The book is intended to help start conversations about rape at the local tribal level. By combining legal history with contemporary data, The Beginning and End of Rape is intended to help tribal leaders, victim advocates, and college students develop their own plans to end sexual violence in tribal nations.
DOWNLOAD: Sarah Deer’s article SOVEREIGNTY OF THE SOUL: EXPLORING THE INTERSECTION OF RAPE LAW REFORM AND FEDERAL INDIAN LAW, on pages 22-25, in February 2018 issue of Restoration Magazine.
Allies in Action
Please join NIWRC in our campaign to continue the groundswell movement locally, nationally and internationally to end the injustices of missing or disappeared and murdered Native women and girls. Together we can end the deafening silence and invisibility surrounding Native women, girls, our families, and communities experiencing unacceptably high levels of violence.
- Organize or support a local activity for National Day of Awareness on May 5 for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.
- Share flyers / announcements and pictures with NIWRCof events planned for and occurring on May 5th.
Write and share individual or organizational statements/press releases about the issue.
The NIWRC will share your activities and events on social media about what you and other tribal programs, coalitions, and communities are doing nationwide to take action, organize, and increase awareness about murdered and disappeared Native women and girls.
Examples of Activities Include:
- Wear RED on May 5th and/or during community events. Create red ribbon pins and encourage your tribal community to create/wear regalia specific to your area.
- Take pictures and post on social media of yourself, family/friends, and community members wearing red with signs/messages and tag NIWRC, including:
- End the Injustice of Missing and Murdered Native Women
- Together We Can End the Injustice of Missing and Murdered Native Women
- Missing and Murdered (Native/Your Tribe’s Name) Women Deserve Justice!
- Take a Stand and Break the Silence Today for Missing and Murdered Native Women.
- Host a community event on May 5th in your tribal community center, school, etc.
- Host a prayer circle or candle-light vigil to show your support for families/community.
- Create a living memorial.
- Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains’ Murdered and Disappeared project: http://www.nativewomenssociety.org/?p=715
Learn More About the Issue
Learn how you can help raise awareness and join our groundswell:
- download the latest issue Volume 15, Issue 1 of Restoration Magazine at http://niwrc.org/restoration.
- Additional information about MMIW awareness events and activities, including the resolution calling for May 5 as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, please see Restoration Magazines Volumes 13 and 14, issues 1-3 at http://niwrc.org/restoration.
- Tribal Community Response: When a Woman Is Missing: A Toolkit for Action http://www.niwrc.org/files/Restoration-V15.1.pdf
- The NIWRC has joined in partnership with many sister organizations and tribal coalitions to lead awareness events and activities including:
- Educational briefings to raise awareness about the crisis of missing and murdered Native women and girls. http://www.niwrc.org/news/safety-native-women-explored-various-events-washington-dc
- Congressional Hill Briefing to Address the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Native Women: http://www.niwrc.org/news/congressional-resolution-aimed-creating-awareness-missing-and-murdered-american-indian-and
- NIWRC Facebook Photo Album of briefing: https://www.facebook.com/pg/niwrc/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1264224740325727
- Indian Law Resource Center’s Hill Briefing: https://goo.gl/5bqA7B
- Press releases and statements: http://www.niwrc.org/news
- View NIWRC webinars addressing missing and murdered Native women: http://www.niwrc.org/resources?field_field_document_type_tid=61&keys=&sort_by=created&sort_order=DESC
- National Congress of American Indian resolution: http://www.ncai.org/resources/resolutions/addressing-crisis-of-missing-and-murdered-native-women
- Savannah’s Act:
- On October 5, 2017, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced Savanna’s Act, which would address the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women in the United States.
- Heitkamp introduced the bill after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind was found tragically murdered and her new born baby found in the possession of her killers.
- The bill would improve tribal access to federal crime information databases, such as NCIC, and would create data fields relevant to the Native population. The bill also calls on law enforcement agencies to create standardized protocols across jurisdictions to address the issue of missing and murdered and requires an annual report to Congress.
- The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and as of the date of this update, nine cosponsors. Additionally, there is an identical companion bill in the House (H.R. 4485), introduced by Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA- 35). As of January 9, 2018, H.R.4485 was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
DOWNLOAD MMIW POSTCARDS:
On Monday, February 12th, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) hosted an event titled “Understanding the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Native Women” at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. The event coincided with the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Session and was partnered by the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Gaming Association, the Indian Law Resource Center, the StrongHearts Native Helpline, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, the Tunica-Biloxi Economic Development Corporation, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
In order to raise awareness of the crisis of missing and murdered native women and girls, the NIWRC and partners, were approached by Congresswoman Norma Torres’ office to host a reception, briefing, and educational showing of the feature film Wind River (written and directed by Taylor Sheridan). The event itself was well attended by hill staffers, tribal leaders, and advocates from across the country who are actively engaged in addressing the issue of violence against native women.
The event was timely. The Violence Against Women Act is set to expire in 2018 and Native women are incredibly vulnerable, experiencing violence at astronomical rates:
More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetime, including:
- 56.1% who have experienced sexual violence
- 55.5% who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner
- 48.4% who have experienced stalking
- 66.4% who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner (NIJ, 2016).
For an in-depth overview, “Safety for Native Women: VAWA and American Indian Tribes” is available at niwrc.org
For the 56.1% of Native women who reported having experienced sexual violence, those same women also reported that 96% of this violence was perpetrated by at least one non-native perpetrator. Wind River is but one illustration of the pervasiveness of this violence. The movie depicts the sexual assault and ultimate murder of an 18-year-old on the Wind River Reservationv by a non-Native. It highlights the jurisdictional complexities that Native women and their families must navigate in instances of violence. Due to a United States Supreme Court Case, Oliphant v. Suquamish (1978), tribal nations, even as sovereigns, were stripped of their inherent authority to prosecute non-natives for crimes committed on tribal lands. The Violence Against Women Act of 2013, effectuated a narrow Oliphant Fix. Implementing tribes are now able to prosecute non-natives for dating violence, domestic violence, and criminal violations of orders of protections. The violence must occur on tribal land, the defendant must have significant ties to Indian Country, and the tribe must provide for certain defendant rights that largely track the Bill of Rights.
Monday was a day of action dedicated to raising awareness on these issues and on key legislation, such as the Violence Against Women Act. The National Congress of American Indians hosted the Task Force on Violence Against Native Women at their Executive Session, which was followed by a Conversation With The Field: Understanding Sexual Assaults in Tribal Communities within the Context of Intimate Partner Relationships by the NIWRC. Importantly, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hosted a Listening Session on gender-based violence in Indian Country.
Congresswoman Torres’ (D-CA) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, called Savanna’s Act, which was first introduced in the Senate by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) on October 5, 2017. Heitkamp introduced the bill after a pregnant Savanna LaFontaine- Greywind was found murdered in the Red River, her newborn child having been crudely removed from her body pre-mortem. The child was later found in the possession of Savanna’s killers and is now reunited with her father. Savanna is sadly one of countless Native women and girls who have gone missing or who have been murdered. In North Dakota alone, 125 cases of missing Native women were reported to the National Crime Information Center. Sadly, this number is widely accepted as lower than the reality given that these crimes are often underreported due to the nature of distrust that Native people often have for systems and law enforcement and the failing of the legal system as applied to Native women and issues of gender based violence in tribal communities.
Savanna’s Act would improve tribal access to federal crime information databases, such as the National Crime Information Center, and would create data fields relevant to the Native population. The bill also calls on law enforcement agencies to create standardized protocols across jurisdictions to address the issue of missing and murdered, and requires an annual report to Congress. The bill has garnered strong bipartisan support in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and promises to do the same in the House.
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center hopes that this event will mobilize grassroots tribal advocates, tribal leaders, Members of Congress, and staffers towards drafting and implementing legislation that addresses the full breadth of violence against Native women and that Congress would find a way to end impunity for non-Native men who abuse Native women on tribal lands. Tribes, as sovereigns, are in the best position to care for their people; this care must include the ability to prosecute non-Natives for violence committed on tribal land. For more information, please visit niwrc.org.
VIEW: Photo album from “Understanding the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Native Women”
This River Runs Red
Approx 8” X 8” X 12”
Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint, artificial sinew
This piece will be part of the group exhibition “Bring Her Home: Stolen Daughters of Turtle Island”, All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis.
Traditionally, native women held positions highly revered in their communities, often respected as leaders, warriors and always as the bringers of life. However, after first contact, non-native men frequently viewed indigenous women as disposable sexual commodities. Based on today’s disproportionately higher rate of violence toward native women and a judicial reluctance to prosecute these crimes, it is a belief that appears to be ongoing.
Statistics in the U.S. indicate three in five native women will be physically assaulted; 34% will be raped; on some reservations, native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average; and U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67% of sexual abuse related cases. In Canada, a 2015 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RMCP) concluded 1,049 aboriginal women had been slain between 1980 and 2015, and that another 175 were considered missing. Patty Hajdu, Canadian Minister for the Status of Women, reported in 2017 that 4,000 would be a more realistic number based on a history of police under-reporting or failure to properly investigate cases. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports that activists with the Walk 4 Justice initiative collected at least 4,232 names of missing or murdered indigenous women.
Although the numbers tell a story, revealing a tragic disparity that must be rectified, we must remember the persons behind the numbers. This Cherokee style single-weave basket was created not only to point to the statistics but also to humanize women who’ve lost their lives. Woven in the traditional pattern called “Water”, the vertical splints are printed with high stats of violence directed at native women in the U.S.; the horizontal splints compile the discrepancy in gathering such numbers in Canada. The interior is printed with the names and tribes, compiled by the CBC, of 306 murdered and missing women, cases the RCMP dismissed as solved. The families of these women dispute this resolution.
The Red River, which runs from Winnipeg, Canada to northern South Dakota, has become known as a place where the bodies of women are regularly recovered making its name (Red River) heartbreakingly fitting. Included on the front of the basket is a red-lined map of this river, a visual gash to serve as a reminder of this place where native women have been discarded and seemingly forgotten. It is time to recognize the humanity of these women, mourn the value of their lives and put a stop to this terror.
Sources: National Congress of American Indians (2013); US Department of Justice (1998); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1998); Native Women’s Association of Canada/Canada Public Broadcaster CBC NEWS (Feb 2016); The Guardian (Feb 2016); Walk 4 Justice/ Global News (Mar 2016); NPR National Public Radio (Aug 2016)
Eastern Band Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn has lived in Tulsa since 1981. Her multi-media work has been exhibited extensively in the US and abroad. Her baskets belong to prestigious collections such as the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC), Denver Art Museum (CO), Gilcrease Museum (OK), Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (NM), CN Gorman Museum (UC Davis, CA), Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN), Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (IN), The Museum of the Cherokee Indian (NC), Surgut Museum of Art (Russia), and the Nordamerika Native Museum (Switzerland). Shan Goshorn a self-employed artist, having supported herself exclusively with her art for over 30 years. Although she launched her career in the early 1980’s with her hand-colored black and white photographs, she don’t consider herself a photographer…nor a painter, a silversmith, a glass worker or storyteller even though she has proficiency within all these genres and more. Rather, she considers herself an artist who chooses the medium that best expresses a statement, usually one that addresses human rights issues, especially those that affect native people today.
The Wellness Circle
Some of our greatest moments of emotional change can come from how we handle difficult moments. Or when we see others Find Healing in Helping, inspiring us to do the same. Throughout these past years (and much longer), we have seen continued political assaults on the Earth, sovereignty, injustice, and our families and communities. It hurt. It still hurts. There is that saying, “Healed People Heal People and Hurt People Hurt People”. How to keep going when there is so much work to do can be a big internal challenge. It can be so empowering to see an overarching (and dominant) response to these incredible challenges especially seeing the next generation step up in such bravery. We have seen youth stand-up against adversity. We have seen each other, allies, and youth give the most valuable contribution, their personal gift of time and energies. The “prayers in action” response to help others, protect survivors, stand with families of victims, surround each other as a collective to end violence against women, the water, the land, and the sovereignty of tribes or communities who are at the place the media calls “ground zero”.
As we begin the newness of the Spring and as the Earth reminds us of renewal and growth, this can be another time for renewal through reflecting on how we approach these same devastating challenges in advocacy towards the end of injustice we face as native people, but also what other people of color face that parallel the mixed bag of marginalization, lookism, racism, ableism, faith and gender-based crimes. Hatred does not discriminate. Recently, there have been heinous crimes. Acts against the sacredness of life in mass numbers, but also the impacts of spiritual and psychological abuses that are acts against another sacred loss of life, suicide. Anyone at any time can be walking their path with invisible injuries, invisible disabilities, and with barely visible calls for help.
What are the ways to heal ourselves and each other? When we talk about “wellness” and “selfcare”, we have been taught that the “self” isn’t the priority, but that our extended families and communities are a reflection of that care. In the anti-violence movement this is extremely visible. Let’s look at how many advocates are survivors. How many survivors are on a healing journey by dedicating their lives to help others who are experiencing abuse. Advocate Survivors are often on the frontlines making policy change for justice, are first responders to victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, are challenging systems for Two Spirit/Native LGBTQ continued barriers to services, fighting for the visibility of murdered and missing, this list goes on and on.
Helping can be Healing. Tillie Black Bear taught us ‘Treating Each Others as Relatives’ is a prayer in action. We saw hundreds of thousands of people come together to support the water, Mni Wiconi. We now see hundreds of thousands of youth empowering each other to heal from the devastating reality that there have been almost 300 school shootings since the first of the calendar new year (66 days). When we are hurting, acts of kindness are extremely powerful. Where there is trauma, healing is the answer.
Helping can be healing in action for the giver and recipient on a spiritual level, but also fundamentally positive physical and psychological neurobiological responses. Princeton University shares, “Giving back has an effect on your body. The mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, is triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.” We already know the answer, from the countless survivor advocates are leading the way. We are powerful together, if we can bring those hurting into the fold with forgiveness and direction. For this Spring edition of the Wellness Circle, we leave with you some intimate questions.
What impact did this year have on you?
What impact have you had on others?
How can a cycle of compassion begin with you?