Thursday is National Awareness Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
With about 30,000 Indigenous people in North Dakota, this day is important to acknowledge — a day to call on North Dakotans to show solidarity with the families of victims as well as to honor the lives of the missing and murdered Indigenous people — both those whose cases are documented and undocumented in public records and the media.
“It hit our family, it hit our community, it really woke everybody up. It woke me up because those people that were going missing were my age; they were people that I knew and I kind of grew up with,” said Swan AmericanHorse.
“Being raised on my reservation, I just know how we have always been treated as subhuman,” said Kathy Whitman ElkWoman.
Both women are from similar backgrounds and share common stories about the horrors of their people.
“The women that went missing in our state here, how they ended up murdered, how they ended up just tossed away like they weren’t anything, the children that went missing, the children that are still going missing that aren’t being found that’s the alarming part for me,” AmericanHorse said.
About 31 people of all ages have gone missing in North Dakota in 2022, according to the World Population Review.
“Since I have been doing this, I haven’t seen too many of our native people with Amber Alerts or any kind of emergency alerts. My phone went off five times this year and none of our people were on there,” said AmericanHorse.
So, the question that raises eyebrows on many different reservations is out of the 31 missing persons, how many are Indigenous? Because, as many know, just because the stories haven’t been accounted for or reported doesn’t mean it’s not happening before our eyes every day.
“We do seem to have the worst statistics and are sort of at the bottom of the care pile,” said Cheryl Kary.
KX News also spoke with the first Native Democratic woman to hold her state position, Ruth Buffalo, who says there’s an action in place to obtain the database of Indigenous specifics in North Dakota — but that’s pending.
“It’s a sad thing that we have to have a day like this, it should not happen to any human race,” Buffalo added.
“I think we need to become better relatives, we need to become a better family, we need to become better friends to each other,” AmericanHorse said.
AmericanHorse shared with KX News how she would like our community to be:
Many Indigenous families want all to be educated and assisted, even outside of their own race.
And they did just that.
Indigenous artist Whitman ElkWoman traveled back home from New Mexico to deliver a sculpture for the cause.
She says Kary helped her with the idea tremendously.
“Started thinking about this project because a local Bismarck woman went missing last year, Valene Little Bird, and she’s still currently missing,” said Whitman ElkWoman. “The sculpture has a place where we can put the photos of women and the names of currently missing women.”
“It’s to draw attention and ask questions,” said Whitman ElkWoman.
And she says it’s not just women in their community that need help — men too.
Buffalo recognized this great need in our nation. But also shared some exciting news.
“A federal commission that was just introduced or announced today, a 30-member commission appointed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and so the commission is tasked with coming up with recommendations to tackle the crisis of MMIP, MMIR,” said Buffalo.
She says the Not Invisible Act Commission is what it will go by, and it should really assist the community.
In a nutshell, all of those who we spoke with long for more togetherness to piece their families back together.
“I have a favorite quote my friend shared with me a long time ago, she said, ‘It doesn’t take extraordinary people to do extraordinary things, it takes a good mind and good heart,'” said AmericanHorse.
If you and your business are interested in sponsoring the sculpture in honor of this important cause, head to the Sacred Pipe Resource Center website.