I recently wrote to you about my Tribe’s emergency declaration over Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIW/C) and its relation to the Keystone XL pipeline’s (KXL) incoming man camps. Today, I want to highlight another effort in my home state to bring about awareness and healing around these ongoing acts of genocide against the heart of our people.
Last month, my sister Mabel Ann and I attended an MMIW action in Rapid City. There, we met Lily Mendoza, co-founder of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society (RRSS), a grassroots collective dedicated to confronting the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, children, two-spirit, and transgender people. In 2019, they opened the MMIW Center for Healing, Prayer, and Remembrance — a small, permanent space to honor and grieve the people our community has lost. We invite you to watch and share our video, in which we interview Lily.
The notion for the center came from an art installation curated just over a year ago. Around Valentine’s Day last year, RRSS hung 70 red dresses on cottonwood trees to symbolize our stolen sisters and relatives. What they discovered was the need for a space our community didn’t have, a space for people to go and reconnect.
Lily, who like me is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told us: “People were going there, amongst the dresses, and they were going there to pray and to remember those that they lost or those that are still missing. We’ve felt we need to do this then, to have a space for community to come.”
As you may know, Indigenous women, children, two-spirit, and transgender folks are more likely to be targeted by human traffickers and/or be the victim of a violent crime. And, all too often, when our relatives go missing, they also go missing in the news. But centers like the one in Rapid City can help us keep their memories alive.
Members of the collective also participated in the MMIW Medicine Wheel Ride last year — a massive motorcycle journey bringing together people from the four corners to mourn our lost relatives.
As I work with my fellow grandmothers in the Was’agiya Najin and others to organize our anti-KXL ground strategy at Cheyenne River, I ask you to continue to stand in solidarity with all my sisters. Stay with us for more information about our crisis, and help spread the word about this incredible group of women and their transformative space by watching and sharing the video.
Wopila tanka — my deep gratitude for your care and attention,
Madonna Thunder Hawk
The Lakota People’s Law Project