May 3, 2022
Raising awareness of missing, murdered Indigenous women
Terri Thayer

The color red raises awareness that a highly disproportionate number of Indigenous women are sexually assaulted and murdered, and shows support for families enduring such trauma. To that end, the REDress Project will be on display at the Whatcom Museum May 5 [Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Day across the United States] through May 15. (Image from the installation at Acadia University, 2015; Christine Rondeau, Vancouver, Canada, via Creative Commons)

May 3, 2022
Raising awareness of missing, murdered Indigenous women
Terri Thayer

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The essays, analyses and opinions presented as Community Voices express the perspectives of their authors on topics of interest and importance to the community, and are not intended to reflect perspectives on behalf of the Salish Current.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day has been observed in the United States on May 5, after the first national day of recognition was initiated in 2017.

This year, Whatcom Community College and the Whatcom Museum have partnered to host the REDress Project, an installation honoring indigenous women and others, in the courtyard at the museum’s Lightcatcher Building May 5–15. The movement has adopted wearing of the color red to raise awareness and to show support for those who have lost loved ones. 

May 5 is a day of awareness of the trauma of our people, the violence we have experienced and the inequities of justice. This day also holds with it the power of our ancestors and the resilience of spirit. Much has happened in Washington state with the development of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force and the signing of HB 1725, establishing an information clearinghouse and alert system, in March.

Despite national coverage, protests, and governmental action, many people still do not understand the magnitude of the loss of Indigenous people to violence. It is hard to wrap your head around the statistics and the need. Many still see Indigenous people as historical. Images in photos in regalia. People that live “out there.” But we are the here and now. 

The story of a grandmother caring for her granddaughter as both mourn with tears of trauma the girl’s missing mother is among the messages carved into the Lummi House of Tears Carvers totem pole that toured the country on its way to Washington, DC, last year. (Salish Current file photo)

For those of you doing equity work or those that want to understand more, I’m asking you to take an active approach. 

  • Become aware of the issues and know what is happening in your area specific to Indigenous people. 
  • Truly understand land acknowledgements and make them a statement of action that uplifts Indigenous people.
  • Buy directly from Native artists and businesses—“Inspired Natives not Native inspired”—Eighth Generation

Increase your awareness. Put your knowledge into action. I know it can be uncomfortable but be brave and resist the urge to disengage. You may not know how to respond or “fix” the problems but give it space, give it time, and keep moving forward. 

— Contributed by Terri Thayer

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photo: Amy Nelson © 2022
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