Grammy Award Recipient Joanne Shenandoah released her new video on May 5, 2019 as part of an international movement to draw attention to the thousands of missing and murdered Native women in the US and Canada. Under the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement that day has been set aside to acknowledge this crisis and to compel national, state and provincial governments to take action.
In a report published online by Foreign Policy (www.foreignpolicy.com) it is stated that: According to 2011 data, though Canada’s 718,500 indigenous women make up just 4.3 percent of the country’s female population, they represent around five times as many female homicide victims. Canadian police have found that 4.5 out of every 100,000 indigenous women die by homicide — for women overall, the figure is less than 1 — and that roughly 1,200 have been slain or have gone missing over the past three decades. Nongovernmental research, however, suggests the real number may top 4,000. How many cases have been solved is another point of dispute: The government claims nearly 90 percent, but some indigenous activists say it’s closer to 50.
Of these Canada’s Department of Justice cites the fact that 53% of those who murder Native women are relatives with 17% of these killings taking place on the road.
The situation in the US is equally as grim. The Urban Health Institute (www.uihi.org) reports that 5,712 Native women have been either killed or are missing in the past thirty years. Robert Johnson, Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Investigation Division, testified before Congress on December 12, 2018 that his office had 633 cases of murdered ad missing resulting from the work of the Safe Trail Task Force which includes 90 officers and agents across the nation.
Organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center in the US are not only pressing for national legislation to address this issue but to call all Native nations to act accordingly.
One of the first persons to ask people to wear red as a symbol of unity is Joanelle Romero, Apache, whose web site www.rednationff.com issued a call to action: #WhyWeWearRED A Global Call to Action and Media Coalition initiative that aims to bring awareness to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women & Girls and the lack of inclusion of Native Women in Film & Television.Other issues Indigenous Women face: sexual harassment, assault, human trafficking, inequality for women in all kinds of workplaces, violence against the land is violence against women.Violence against Native women has reached epidemic proportions. Four in five Native women will be the victims of violence during their lifetimes. Native women remain the most underrepresented minority in the industry.
Shenandoah is the former Co-Chair of the National Task Force on American Indian and Alaskan Native Children Exposed to Violence which held hearings in 2014 across the country in response to an urgent need to address this crisis. The hearings, ordered by former US President Barack Obama, revealed the extent to which Native women are subjected to physical assaults including murder. Her committee’s report can be found on the web site: www.futureswithoutviolence.org.
To further her commitment to combating violence endured by Native women Shenandoah worked with film and media students at Syracuse University who were under the guidance of Professor Tula Goenka of the Newhouse School of Communications. The students recorded, cast, produced, directed and edited the video which included Oneida actors Ciera Bluewolf and Tammy Bluewolf-Kennedy. This video was created by Television, Radio & Film graduating seniors Peter Conway, Elijah Goodell and Sarah Rebetje as their Capstone at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. Executive Producers Professor Tula Goenka and Andrew Robinson.
At the SU premiere Michelle Shenandoah-Powless presented a summation of her work as publisher of the new online magazine Rematriation. Mary Lyons, Anishnabe, gave a powerful personal narrative of her experience of her sister, a victim of violence and murder. Doreen Bennett, Maori of New Zealand, came from the Indigenous Forum at the United Nations to lend her support as did the audience, most of whom were wearing red.
Shenandoah’s song “Missing You” now available on You Tube includes Loren Barrigar- guitarist, Brian Michaels-cello, and Patrick McDougal engineer. It is dedicated to Leah Shenandoah, Joanne’s daughter also a victim of violence.