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​Native voices cry for justice

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | May 5th, 2018

MMIW marcher with sign - photograph by C.S. Hagen

FARGO– Once again, Native drums and voices resonated through downtown Fargo Saturday morning raising awareness for missing and Indigenous women. More than 50 people dressed in red gathered at the Fargo Public Library and marched to Veterans Memorial Bridge for National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

They sang and marched because 84 percent of Native women experience some kind of violence in their lifetime, and on some reservations, Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average.

Fargo cultural planner, Willard Yellowbird, prays before the march - photograph by C.S. Hagen“Today, we walk for our missing Indigenous women and girls, our grandmothers, to show them they are not forgotten,” Willard Yellowbird, who is once again the city’s cultural planner, said before the march.

Called a crisis by many, including Senator Heidi Heitkamp, trust, jurisdictional bureaucracy, and red tape involved in crimes related to Indigenous people are some of the reasons why many cases of human trafficking and kidnapping are not prosecuted.

Pearl Walker-Swaney, Delores Gabbard, and Proud Happy Indigenous Womxn led the march. Yellowbird and Sandra Berlin offered the opening prayers, and Buffalo River singers led singing. Jingle dancing continued on Veterans Memorial Bridge. 

Last October, Heitkamp introduced Savanna’s Act, named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind who was eight months pregnant when she was killed by a neighbor. The act focuses on ensuring North Dakota tribes have the information and resources they need to protect women from violence, abduction, and human trafficking. The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on the legislation, which has attracted bipartisan support.

A woman carries child on back while marching for MMIW issues - photograph by C.S. Hagen

"In Indian Country, almost everyone knows of someone who is missing or murdered,” Heitkamp said. “If that were the case across the country, it would be a national crisis. We’re working to bring this epidemic out of the shadows because only when that happens can we then implement solutions to stop these crimes.

Zebadiah Gartner (in white hat) beats drums and sings during march - photograph by C.S. Hagen

“Everyone should be shocked by the stories and statistics about these crimes and outraged that more action hasn't been taken to stop them. I urge everyone to take some time on May 5, and every day, to read about Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, Monica Wickre, Stella Marie Trottier-Graves, Lakota Rae Renville, Lindsay Vivier White, and countless others, and post on social media using #NotInvisble tell as many people as possible about this crisis. We owe it to these women and their families to not only remember, but to put forward solutions and take action to prevent these heinous crimes in the future."

Marchers for MMIW awareness stop before the new Fargo City Hall - photograph by C.S. Hagen

MMIW marcher - photograph by C.S. Hagen

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