Indigenous Community Center event brings communal healing through art and abortion justice education

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A sense of rage and eagerness to mobilize resonated among those in attendance at the Indigenous Community Center’s awareness event Saturday.

The event provided space for people to release emotions after the overturning of Roe v. Wade and ahead of the Kansas abortion amendment decision, as well as a vibrant celebration of cultural identity, resulting in communal healing.

ICC’s Indigenous Voices and Abortion Justice event at the Lied Center featured art vendors, food vendors, speakers, live music and a panel. The panelists expanded upon topics discussed at ICC’s last abortion justice panel on June 30, such as forced sterilization of Indigenous women in the 1960s and 70s, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), residential schools, and how to center Indigenous voices for abortion justice without appropriating culture.

Moniqué Mercurio (Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nations), ICC vice chairperson, emceed the event.

Abortion justice panel discussion

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Panelists, left to right, are Chloe Gunville, Wyomee Cooke, Alexandra Holder, Kayla Hansley, Sarah Deer, Robert Hicks and Sierra Two Bulls.

Panelists included Chloe Gunville (Mnicoujou Lakota) and Wyomee Cooke (Diné), members of Kansas Rep. Christina Haswood’s policy team; Alexandra Holder (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Haskell Indian Nations University student and Ms. Haskell 2019-20; Kayla Hansley, full-spectrum doula; Sarah Deer (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), author and KU professor; and Robert Hicks (Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Nixon Nevada), ICC chairperson.

Sierra Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota), ICC community coordinator, moderated the discussion.

Jimmy Beason (Osage Nation (Eagle Clan)), scholar and Haskell professor, earlier in the evening also spoke on the role of non-birthing men in supporting abortion justice, saying that they have a responsibility to “respect” a birthing person’s choice.

Panelists dove into the history that led up to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, all which directly relate to abortion justice today. The Indian Health Services’ (IHS) sterilization of Indigenous women in the 1960s and 70s occurred without their consent or knowledge and oftentimes when they were asleep, forcibly stripping them of their ability to birth.

“Forced sterilization was a way to get Native populations to dwindle down. It was another form of genocide,” Holder said.

Deer also spoke about the Hyde Amendment, which in 1976 declared abortion services could not be funded by federal dollars. The Hyde Amendment has affected Indigenous people who live on Indian reservations because reservations are federally funded, and those who rely on federal funding from the IHS or Medicaid, ever since it was passed three years after Roe v. Wade.

“Roe v. Wade died 1976 on reservations, so this is what we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves [about]. Not only are we trying to keep [abortion] legal, we are also fighting to have it accessible, and that’s on all of us,” Deer said.

Panelists also discussed how the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which gives tribal governments a say on where Native children stripped from their families will be placed, has recently been constitutionally challenged and is on the Supreme Court’s chopping block. 

Hicks added that Native children are gaslit out of keeping their cultural identities, and being taken from their homes and placed into white or non-Indigenous families is a continuation of atrocities like residential schools.

“We need to be together to heal, we need to be together to connect. The colonization makes us doubt ourselves so hard,” Hicks said. 

Because Indigenous people have always had their choices and rights taken away, panelists said, every instance of institutional violence against Indigenous populations is related to abortion justice and reproductive health care justice; therefore, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices need to be at the forefront, Deer said.

“After Roe v. Wade, we need to center the communities that are most harmed by abortion bans,” Deer said.

Featured artists, food vendors and musicians

Throughout the event, artists and food vendors sold their products. This was a chance for people to support BIPOC creators.

Art vendors who shared and sold their work included:

• Forever Flowering Designs, an Indigenous and Black-owned jewelry business by Aiyana Jimeve (Ihanktonwan Dakota and Hunkpapa Lakota)
• Han’s Honey, an Indigenous-made cosmetics line founded by Han Wahwassuck (Prairie Band Potawatomi)
• 1OceanLane, art by Ocean Rodriguez inspired by waves of communication on Earth – sound waves, radio waves, visible light and ocean waves
Iris Cliff (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), who’s an artist and designer
• MercTribe Designs, beadwork by Moniqué Mercurio (Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation)
• Nana Kutsi Crochet by Frendida Zamora
• Coup Count Designz, a beadwork and ledger art business by Tokeya Waci U (Oglala Lakota and Haliwa-Saponi Tribes) mostly inspired by on healing and stories orally passed down and centered around healing
• Cherie’s Scents, a Black woman-owned candle and aromatherapy business by Moncherie Mack
• Back Naked by Kayla Hansley a.k.a. Doula Kay, who has full-spectrum doula services and art gallery
• Nish Araw Jewelry, a Potawatomi and Filipino-owned jewelry business by Miranda Bradford and Evangeline Luna
• Resumes by Neesha, a Black-owned, full service personal branding consulting company by Khyneesha Edwards
• N8V Candles, an Indigenous candle and beauty product line with hand-picked grasses by Lenora Blue Back (Wichita and Sac and Fox Tribes) and Caleb Calhoun
• Kmonquah Creations, Indigenous hand-made art by Juliet Kellar (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation)

Some artists donated a portion of their proceeds to Lawrence’s MMIG2ST (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Trans people) chapter. 

Supporting MMIW is directly supporting abortion justice, because as states continue to ban abortion, Indigenous people will face even more unsafe circumstances while traveling across state lines. Indigenous women and girls are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average and when they go missing, they do not receive the same national attention as white women and girls.


Food vendors for the event were Morning Light Kombucha with locally crafted kombucha drinks, Café Corazón with artisanal Latin American coffee and baked goods, and Peaches Fry Bread with Navajo tacos and dessert fry bread, according to event promotion. 

In between speakers were musical guests, including Alex Kimball Williams a.k.a. Bad Alaskan, Barry Washboard Barnes and more.

Also at the event to share resources were representatives from the Willow Domestic Violence Center, Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center, and Kansas City Indian Center.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Alex Kimball Williams, a.k.a. Bad Alaskan, performs.
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Barry Washboard Barnes, musician and poet, performs.
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times The Kansas City Indian Center, based in Kansas City, MO, is centered on the advancement of American Indian communities by promoting Indigenous values. They currently have a campaign to end the Kansas City football team’s use of the name “Chiefs.”

How to take action

With the “Value Them Both” amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot, panelists encouraged voters to participate in early voting to ensure their vote is counted amid summer plans.

Panelists urged Kansans to vote “no” to the amendment, which would be a vote to maintain Kansas’ current constitutional right to abortion. A “yes” vote would allow legislators to enact a full ban on abortion in Kansas.

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

You can quickly request an advance ballot to be mailed to you at The last day to request a mail ballot is July 26.

To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

* We are not election workers *

As of right now, abortion is still legal in Kansas, with many restrictions in place. Deer urged people to understand the concept of self-managed abortions and that abortion pills called Plan C, best used up to 11 weeks into a pregnancy, are safe to use at home. Read more about Plan C at this link.

The best way to take immediate action to support abortion access is to donate to abortion funds, if able, panelists shared. Indigenous Women Rising specifically aids Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada in financial support for abortion access. People can also donate to the Kansas Abortion Fund to aid Kansans.

In addition to becoming educated on Plan C and donating to abortion funds, Deer presented some steps she encourages supporters and allies to take in support.

“First of all, say the word ‘abortion.’ There is nothing wrong with abortion. Second, vote ‘no’ on Aug. 2. Commit to voting in every single election in your lifetime because we have to elect abortion-friendly legislators, and help others vote if you can,” Deer said.

All registered Kansas voters can vote in the upcoming primary, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof. Learn more about the Aug. 2 election at this link.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

More coverage: August 2 Election


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