Across the United States, Indigenous and Native advocates and supporters gathered Wednesday, May 5 to acknowledge a crisis of violence against indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit individuals.
Indigenous community march in downtown Colorado Springs
May 5 marked National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn.
A crowd in downtown Colorado Springs wore red and marched with hand drums to bring attention to the disproportionate numbers of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn on the National Day of Awareness. Many carried signs with names and photographs of those lost to violence.
More than four in five Native American and Alaska Native women, girls, and two-spirit individuals — over 84 percent — have experienced violence in their lifetime. More than half have experienced sexual violence. 96% of assaulters are non-Native.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday in a virtual speech during a federal event of recognition. Haaland is the first Native American (Pueblo of Laguna) to serve as a cabinet secretary, and is a 35th generation New Mexican.
“The missing and murdered indigenous crisis is one that Native communities have faced since the dawn of colonization,” Haaland said. “For too long, this issue has been swept under the rug.”
Cases of missing indigenous women are underreported, and many are are unreported, Haaland said.
On May 5 , the White house issued a Proclamation on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day . Informed by Tribal input, the Department of the Interior recently established a Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Unit will lead interagency work surrounding missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.
And in Colorado Springs, City Council signed a Proclamation to signify participation in the May 5 National Day of Awareness, including a land acknowledgement to commemorate the city’s first inhabitants.
“These proclamations are not nearly enough,” said Monycka Snowbird (Ojibwe). “They are not even close to being enough. Every single one of our families is impacted by this. Today is a day of awareness. We want people to remember the names of the people we’ve lost.”
Snowbird works for the Haseya Advocate Program, a sponsor of the march, offering resources for Native violence prevention and victim assistance. Like all Native women, she has been impacted directly by loss in her community.
During the event, Snowbird honored and named Sheree Barker, whose family is Hunkpapa Band of Lakota from the Standing Rock reservation.
“Sheree is a local woman who was born, raised, and murdered here in Colorado Springs,” Snowbird said. “We have to stop our sisters, our mothers, and grandmothers from being another statistic.”