The statistics for missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) 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 that was compiled for the Department of Justice, for example, 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.
Helen Knott talking about the link between violence against Indigenous women and violence against the land
Sadly, Native and First Nations communities are painfully aware of the selective visibility they, and the issues they face have amongst non-Indigenous people. Colonization has created a veil which enables modern day America and Canada to maintain a mindset that contributes to the continued marginalization of the people from whom this land was stolen.
It isn’t a mindset that only exists in a historical context, it is actually hundreds of years in the making. Native and First Nations people are living with the effects of colonization today, just look at the forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1960s and 1970s. Look at the assimilation policy of the Indian Adoption Act outlawed in 1978 (but continued in one form or another into the 1990s) where Native children were given to White families, most being abused and all being lost to their culture for too long. Look at the modern-day and continued insult of dressing as a “sexy Native” at Coachella or around Halloween when non-Natives wear sacred, feathered headdresses or cultural-style clothing because they think it is cute or fun … I could go on, but these examples alone show you how Indigenous women’s bodies have been subjugated, controlled, hypersexualized, disregarded or reduced to a mere costume. It is a mindset that keeps the fact that the female murder rate is ten times the national average all too quiet.
Lisa Brunner talks about the difficulties of bringing non-Native perpetrators of violence against Native women to justice
I would urge you, if you don’t know much about this cause, to learn what you can and raise awareness – push for better inquiries, better systems to report missing women and girls, and better justice. I urge you to wear red on May 5th to honour and remember MMIW and show that they are not forgotten. I 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.