Today, May 5, is Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day, as throughout Indian Country and elsewhere Native communities and organizations – including Running Strong for American Indian Youth® — are gathering and working to draw attention to the MMIP crisis and honor those who have been impacted the most, primarily women.
“On Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, we remember the many lives shattered or lost, and commit to working with Native communities to find justice, keep families safe, and help them heal,” stated President Joe Biden in his Presidential Proclamation on May 4 in advance of MMIP Awareness Day.
“Indian Country has been gripped by an epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous people, whose cases far too often go unsolved,” the proclamation continued. “Families have been left investigating disappearances on their own, demanding justice for their loved ones, and grieving pieces of their souls.
“Generations of activists and organizers have pushed for accountability, safety and change.
“We need to respond with urgency and the resources needed to stop the violence and reverse the legacy of inequity and neglect that often drives it.
“For the thousands of families who have lost or are still looking for a friend or loved one, I know this day is full of purpose and pain.
“Know that your fight to cast light on these injustices has already saved lives.”
At Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, we are well aware of the tragic and heartbreaking statistics from the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center:
*The murder rate of Native women is more than 10 times the national average on some Indian reservations.
*More than 80 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women have experienced violence in their lifetime.
*Native women suffer from violence at a rate 2.5 times greater than any other population in the U.S.
*One-third of Native women will be raped in their lifetime, and 80 percent will be victims of a violent assault – the vast majority committed by non-Native perpetrators.
*Up to 96 percent of victims/survivors of battering are female.
At Running Strong we are urging you to take action by advocating for the personal sovereignty and safety of women and children, clearly and persistently sending the message that all violence is unacceptable and is NEVER the fault of the women experiencing such violence, and to model courage and resistance even in the face of oppression, intimidation, and fear.
In instances in which an individual may personally know a person who has been abused and/or assaulted, It is also critically important for all to LISTEN TO AND BELIEVE SURVIVORS and ask how you might be able to be of help – without offering unsolicited advice and while respectfully asking what they may need and RESPECT THEIR DECISIONS.
We are proud of our Running Strong Dreamstarters® and Dreamstarter® Creatives grant recipients who have taken up the cause to bring awareness to issue and take action in their communities and beyond to prevent such heinous crimes in the future and ensure justice for perpetrators.
Among them is 2023 Dreamstarter® Autumn Harry (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe), 30, of Nixon, Nevada who is using a portion of her $20,000 Dreamstarter® grant to use art as a form of healing while also providing mentorship to new/young environmental justice organizers.
Part of Autumn’s project is to develop a large mural in downtown Reno that will bring visibility and awareness to MMIP, as well as to the issue of land protection as due to colonial violence and the intrusion of outsiders who have come to reap their tribal lands of natural resources.
“Our [Numu, Masiw and Newe] communities at Pyramid Lake are healing from recent and unsolved cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples,” says Autumn. “I want our communities to feel seen and heard while we continue to demand justice for relatives who have been taken from violence.
“I feel that a mural project will create a space to educate the urban populations while also increasing visibility for our communities.”
Running Strong Dreamstarter® Creative Joe Harjo (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) has created art, such as a wall drawing installation where he wrote “Missing & Murdered” over and over again in the shape of the M&Ms candy logo, to bring attention “because the genocide of Native women is happening in silence.
“These missing and murdered women are descendants of our original leaders,” noted Joe. “They are the backbone of our communities and families, and their futures are now unseen.
“Losing women to violence is an injustice that creates insurmountable grief, trauma, and permanent damage to our communities. The artwork I’ve presented is a demand for action and visibility, created with the voice and platform I have as an artist and human.”
If you or a loved one has experienced violence, or are affected by a case of MMIW you can find recourses at https://www.niwrc.org/or at any of the following:
- Strong Hearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483
- 24/7 Safe, confidential, and anonymous domestic and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans
- Advocacy information packet from National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: https://www.niwrc.org/sites/default/files/pdf_advocacy_information_packet.pdf
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-788/ Text: 233733