MMIW Healing Center: A Place for Remembrance

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/mmiw-healing-center

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.

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Medicine Wheel riders and RRSS members honor their lost sisters.

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
Tribal Liaison
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River for resisting KXL
Mon, Feb 17, 2020 11:30 am
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)

As the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) invades our homelands at the Cheyenne River Reservation, we women are preparing for the struggle.

In December, my daughter, Marcy, helped to organize a talk about human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIWC) happening on our reservation. At this important Women Gathering, community members and representatives of many concerned organizations initiated the Nazo Campaign — providing whistles to alert relatives to unfolding crime and violence on Cheyenne River — and a resolution asking our Tribal Council to declare a state of emergency. They then presented to the council, where our tribal nation made that declaration.

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Today I ask that you watch our video and send a note of thanks and solidarity to the women of Cheyenne River for standing up to protect the safety and security of our people.

Our matriarchy must and will lead this fight. We even have two generations of grandmothers working together here! The Was’agiya Najin — “Grandmothers Standing Strong” — includes both older grandmothers (OGs) like me and younger grandmothers (YGs) like Marcy.

In addition to Was’agiya Najin, our Women Gatherings also include representation from Warrior Women Project, Women of All Red Nations, Simply Smiles, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Lakota People’s Law Project, veterans, water protectors, and more. These are powerful, alliance-building meetups, and now the tribe has heeded our warning.

That’s critical, because Big Oil is building two KXL man camps — temporary housing for pipeline workers — on either side of Cheyenne River. These dens of machismo inevitably bring with them increases in sex and drug trafficking, worsening our MMIWC epidemic locally.

Here’s how bad it is: by 2014, our state’s federal courts had handed out more life sentences for commercial sex trafficking than all other states’ combined. Because 40 percent of South Dakota’s victims are Native women, we pay the highest price.

As a girl, I was shipped off to boarding school. I experienced what it is like to have my culture stripped from me, so as a young woman I became a leader in the American Indian Movement and created the “We Will Remember” Survival School. There, I taught Marcy and other children about treaty rights, to prioritize Native sovereignty, and to preserve our traditions.

Now, together, we are helping to pass on lessons of leadership and direct action to the next generations. That starts with making sure they don’t fall prey to man camps, and it means demanding action from our tribe. As Indigenous women, we have always been on the front lines, and we know how to stay ready. Will you stand with us?

Wopila tanka — my deepest gratitude for your solidarity,

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison
The Lakota People’s Law Project

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

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