Community members walked together through downtown Lawrence to show solidarity and raise awareness of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people and the fight to end the historical violence.
As part of the Indigenous Community Center’s (ICC) Action for Justice Week, community members met in South Park Tuesday and walked north on Massachusetts Street to Lawrence City Hall. They aimed to bring attention to the intersectional movement of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit and Trans people (MMIWG2ST).
Community support and allyship is needed to amplify the movement as violence against Indigenous people and a lack of justice is an ongoing emergency, Moniqué Mercurio (Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation), ICC co-chair and community coordinator, said to those in attendance.
After reaching City Hall, participants gathered in front of the building to hear ICC leaders speak. ICC leaders then shared those same words with city commissioners inside during their meeting Tuesday evening.
“Violence against Native people is not an epidemic,” ICC leader Sierra Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota) told commissioners. “An epidemic is biological and blameless. Violence against Native people is historical and political — bounded by oppression and colonial violence. We want to do more than just survive. We seek nothing more than human dignity and nothing less than justice.”
According to the Department of Justice, Native American women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average, and cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people often don’t receive the same national attention as those of white victims. The lack of recent statistics on the crisis contributes to the issue, ICC leader D’Arlyn Bell (Cherokee Nation) told commissioners.
“The lack of overall data is only one of the issues that local MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) advocate groups and tribes have been talking about for years,” Bell said. “And now that the MMIW crisis has more of a national spotlight, federal and state entities are starting to pay attention.”
In addition to better reporting, Two Bulls urged the Department of Justice to provide training to law enforcement officials on how to record a victim’s tribal nation enrollment into federal databases and establish a strategy to educate the greater public about the crisis.
Mayor Lisa Larsen followed by reading a proclamation naming Friday, May 5 as MMIWG2ST Awareness Day in Lawrence.
ICC will continue to hold free, public events through Friday as part of Action for Justice Week. A KU graduate student on Wednesday will present her capstone project on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP); a documentary screening and performance are scheduled for Thursday; and and everyone is encouraged to wear red in solidarity with the movement on Friday.
Visit this link for more information on those events.
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