A photo by Elia Pellegrini of a woman wearing a red dress walking through a field. You can only see her from the waist down as her dress billows out in a breeze. A red dress is the symbol of the MMIWG2S movement.
Advocacy & News, Awareness & Unlearning

Not Invisible: The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls & Two-Spirit Movement

The statistics for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits (MMIWG2S) is staggering, and a grossly underreported issue across the U.S. and Canada. There is a day of awareness on May 5th to honour and remember the women and push for better systems to report, investigate and provide justice.

Data compiled for the Department of Justice found that Native American women are murdered at a rate that is 10 times that of the national average. This is such a significant statistic that it should be something all of us have knowledge of and are actively involved in fighting against. If White women were murdered at 10 times the national average, there would be a huge, organized movement behind it with local, national and even worldwide attention.

A graphic link to an Advocacy & News post on Transatlantic Notes called Not Invisible: The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls & Two-Spirit Movement.
Background image via Lorie Shaull

Sadly, Native American and First Nations communities are acutely aware of the selective visibility among non-Indigenous people of the issues they face. Colonization created a veil; enabling modern-day America and Canada to maintain a mindset that contributes to the continued marginalization of the people from whom this land was stolen.

This is not a perspective that solely exists in a historical context, it’s actually hundreds of years in the making. Native American and First Nations People are living with the impacts of colonization today; look at the forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1960s and 70s. Look to the assimilation policy of the Indian Adoption Act which was outlawed in 1978 but continued in one form or another into the 1990s; Native children were taken and placed into White families with the aim of making sure their culture was stripped away — many being subjected to abuse. Consider the modern-day insult of non-Natives dressing up as “sexy Indians” at Coachella or around Halloween; too many non-Natives think they have acquired the right to wear sacred feathered headdresses or cultural-style clothing — even a bastardized version — because it’s cute and fun (it isn’t) … I could go on.

Helen Knott talking about the link between violence against Indigenous women and violence against the land.

These examples alone show you how Indigenous bodies have been controlled, hypersexualized, disregarded and reduced to party costumes. It’s this same mindset — dehumanization — that allows a murder rate ten times higher than that of the national average to remain obscured in our national consciousness.

Whether it’s the result of domestic violence, a known tribal member or trucker/stranger passing through a reservation; underreporting, jurisdiction confusion, lack of resources and routine failure to prosecute compound the issue. In addition, extractive industries like oil pipelines (more colonization in action) bear a direct connection to MMIWG2S. Not only do these pipelines perpetuate environmental injustice; frequently running through Native American communities laying waste to their land and polluting their water supplies, they also expose Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits to violence. The man camps set up for the pipeline workers bring in a substantial number of people, most often men; with reports revealing this movement of transient workers correlates with an increase in cases of sexual violence and sex trafficking.

Lisa Brunner talks about the difficulties of bringing non-Native perpetrators of violence against Native women to justice.

If you don’t know much about the MMIWG2S movement, please educate yourself about it and find ways to raise awareness. Push for better inquiries, improved reporting systems and bold justice. Wear red on May 5th to honour and remember all MMIWG2S and show that they’re not forgotten. I would also urge you to listen to Indigenous voices and to be humble enough to admit that colonization is a system that continues to threaten the original people of this continent and that no matter how much rose-tinted, Disney-esque bullshit you’ve been fed about Native and First Nations people – it’s still bullshit. I’m (un)learning this.

Stand with the families of Ashlynn Mike, Kailey Vijil, Olivia Lone Bear, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, Tina Fontaine, to name a few, and make a difference.


Further Info:

Taking Action During The 2021 National Week Of Action For MMIWG – National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

Pipeline Violence: The Oil Industry and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women – Immigration and Human Rights Law Review

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