Justice for Indigenous women is land justice.
Since 2022, May 5 has been officially recognized as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day. This day is meant to shed light on the crisis of violence that disproportionately affects Indigenous women, girls, and 2-Spirit relatives. As part of the National Week of Action, individuals, families and communities here in Oregon and across the country are mobilizing to raise awareness and demand justice for their lost or stolen relatives.
Both historically and currently, Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to violence, with recent estimates showing that 4 out of every 5 Indigenous women have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. Additionally, murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women. Due to chronic underreporting and racial misclassification, the true magnitude of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR) crisis may be severely underestimated.
The effects of the MMIWR crisis reverberate through families, communities and through the land itself. Indigenous women are the backbone of tribal nations and integral for the rematriation of land. They play valuable roles as sisters, daughters, aunties, mothers, and matriarchs, and as Elders, teachers, advocates, stewards, and protectors. As life-givers and culture-keepers, they bear the responsibility to uphold the survival of their nations. Their loss is deeply felt.
The interconnection between Indigenous women and land is etched in our blood memory; the violence inflicted on Indigenous women mirrors the violence we see inflicted on Mother Earth:
“What occurs in the land echoes in the bodies of Indigenous Peoples. Environmental devastation directly corresponds with the dehumanization and degradation of Indigenous Peoples, and more precisely, Native women and girls. We recognize violence against Indigenous women and girls as a worldwide assault of immeasurable brutality – a human made pandemic. And we know that it is an extension of ongoing settler colonialism and the associated trauma and exploitation taking place in the natural world. These are twined together.
While it is gender-based aggression – it is at its very core another expression of the 528-year war with ongoing colonization. Indigenous women are victimized first, as Indigenous persons. It is important to understand that is the initial thrust – the targeting and trigger, because Indigenous women’s very existence and resilience subverts the goal of Manifest Destiny and colonial supremacy. And then, we are targeted and violated – extracted and exploited as women – the very embodiment of the Earth herself.”
Justice for Indigenous women is land justice. No more stolen sisters, no more stolen land.
As conservation organizations, we have a responsibility to honor Indigenous women and their contributions to land stewardship and rematriation. This includes paying proper attention to the MMIWR crisis and standing in solidarity with advocates.
Please consider supporting the cause by donating to these organizations (or other efforts in your local area):
- MMIW USA
- Sovereign Bodies Institute
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
- Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women
Banner image by yooperann, via Flickr Creative Commons.