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COMMENT: MMIW movement at the border

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By TIA PANTHER

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) crisis affects all Indigenous nations today. The MMIW movement was created to raise awareness and give voice to our stolen sisters whose stories have gone unheard.

Maggie Jackson, right, speaks before the MMIW march on Saturday April 30 from when Sheyahshe Littledave holds a sign acknowledging her cousin who is currently missing. Along with Ahli-sha Stephens, Jackson and Littledave produce and host the “We Are Resilient” podcast which focuses on MMIW cold cases. (photos SCOTT MCKIE BP/One Feather)

There are many things that contribute to the lack of justice for those affected and the awareness of the movement as a whole. There is a huge lack of media coverage for the cases of our missing women and girls, as 95% of these cases are not covered by national or international news and are often overlooked by judicial entities due to jurisdictional complications between the tribal and state jurisdictions. These jurisdictional difficulties are not the only problems with current justice systems, as tribal justice systems tend to be underfunded and unable to use funding in the most productive way, which has forced many families to become detectives of the cases of their loved ones.

Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average, according to the US Department of Justice, with homicide being a leading cause of death for Indigenous women and girls (3rd leading cause for 10-24 years old and 5th cause among 25-44 year olds). These are alarming statistics because the population of indigenous peoples represents 2% of the total population of the United States.

As a community, we need to teach and learn from each other as well as reach out to those who are not part of our communities; and the Cherokee MMIW committee is working on it. The local committee’s mission statement reads: “By raising awareness and educating about this emergency, we want our communities to be aware that this crisis is not just a national problem, but is happening here. even on the border of Qualla”.

Currently, there are 23 MMIWs that we know of from the Qualla border. One of the best ways for those of us who live in Indigenous communities to help is to participate in the Community Census and Survey, so that funds are distributed more effectively among our communities. Get involved and participate in MMIW events happening in your area, such as protests, marches, vigils, etc. is also extremely helpful in raising awareness of this issue.

The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is not a trend in which participants don red shirts or ribbon skirts, but it is a movement in which we all must fight for justice and representation. These women and girls who were tragically lost were and still are important. The Cherokee MMIW committee asks that we come together as a community to protect our women and girls.

Mary “Missy” Crowe, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and organizer of MMIW events on the Qualla frontier, holds a candle during the MMIW Candlelight Vigil held at Unity Field in Cherokee on the evening of Thursday, May 5.