Updated: May 3, 2020
In 2018, the United States declared May 5th National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. As of 2019, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has declared May 5th a Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as an act of solidarity with the state recognized tribes located in North Carolina. This proclamation includes Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, trans, and non-binary people. There are nine historic tribes in the state of North Carolina, including the Lumbee, Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Tuscarora, Waccamaw-Siouan, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi, and Sappony.
Raisa Jones, Brenda Finnicum, and Shelia Price, founder of Shatter the Silence, are leading a Facebook campaign for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Observance Day. To honor victims, survivors, and their families, participants in the campaign have been asked to hang a red dress, shirt, or other article of red clothing in their window or outside of their homes. All three women are members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, and are fierce advocates for justice for Indigenous people. As part of the Facebook campaign, participants are being asked to post a picture of themselves in red using the hashtag #mmiwgday.
Red dresses hanging on birch trees to honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Image from Huffington Post.
Shatter the Silence is a movement comprised of family members of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People victims in Robeson County, North Carolina. Shelia Price created the group in November 2018 after her daughter Rhonda Jones, along with Christina Bennett and Megan Oxendine, were found murdered. Members of this movement act as voices for the voiceless and chant, "We are their voice."
Raisa Jones remembers a few of her own friends and relatives who were murdered or went missing. She says, "I knew a couple of people that just disappeared one day. Every Indigenous community has been touched by the tragedies of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It is frightening to know that Indigenous women are as much as 10 times more likely to be targeted in violence than anyone else. In many areas, 4 out of 5 Indigenous women are the victims of some form of violence. While many media reports focus on women and girls, Indigenous men are boys are often victims of violence. Even our elders are at risk. It is a crisis of violence, Missing and Murdered Indigenous People."
Jones also addresses the issue of the identification of Native American people, and concludes that the statistics on Missing and Murdered People are higher than the research suggests. Victims "fall through the cracks," and some of their cases are left cold.
"That is why it is important for someone to listen to the families crying out for help," Raisa continues. "Shatter the Silence was formed here for just that purpose, to make sure that there was someone to give those families a safe space to grieve their loved ones and keep their memory alive. The tragedy of MMIWG affects every Indigenous community, that means it affects us all."
Native Country is comprised of diverse views and ideologies, but this is one issue that we all agree needs to be resolved.
Red Dress group at Loudoun NAACP Gala honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Image by Live Beautiful and Powerful.