What is the injustice here?
All across Turtle Island (the "North American Continent" without borders), the land, air, water, animal relatives and Indigenous people are suffering from a 500+ year violent colonial history. Considering Indigenous people have existed since time-immemorial to this continent, the shuddering powers of genocide have left staggering and unapologetic consequences for those Indigenous Nations that have survived. One of the most difficult continual issues we face as Indigenous People is the extremely high rates of missing and murdered people. There are numbers, stats, etc. to support understanding this violence but as Indigenous communities, we live with the reality in our hearts, minds, and spirits.
What is your role or experience?
My role is to represent my nation, community, clan and my kin.
As Rauna Kuokkanen puts it, “Instead of being victims, indigenous women are citizens of their nations fighting to have their rights recognized as women and as a people. In many cases, indigenous women are organizers who actively mobilize their communities and available resources in most creative ways that often go beyond ideologies and practices of global market economy."
MMIWhoismissing is using modern tools, photo-documentary practices, and creative campaigning to sustain awareness and to promote the deep understanding we need to address this violence. It is about spirit, it is about love for our people.
How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice?
As an indigenous woman, it is in my nature to create. It is in our nature to create with purpose. We create not for ourselves, but for our people, our families, our communities. This campaign, though a reflection of a collective pain we share all across Turtle Island, has personal roots within me. I work because this colonial violence took a mother away from me, for me this is productive healing.
What is one practical way you want people to get involved?
a) There is no practical way. If non-indigenous people want to help or get involved, it starts with a deep reflection of their own kin, systems, and communities that have thrived off the genocidal violence of Indigenous people and how the individual often blindly maintains these systemic injustices in their own life.
b) see included "Indigenous Ally Toolkit" (Please email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy!)
c) follow, support, listen and donate to MMIWhoismissing
Though my mother is maternally indigenous, we have never really understood what that meant for us. So much of my familial ethnic identity faded when she died as a middle aged woman.
I became aware of the sacred beauty and creativity of indigenous people as a young girl at Pow Wows. I loved the dancing and the intricacies of traditional clothing and jewelry. And I still do.
I first became aware of the injustice of colonization in Bridgetown Church in Portland, OR. An indigenous man was invited to share his experience under the oppression, and resilience of, colonialism. Especially Christian colonialism.
Then more recently, I heard Kaitlin Curtice speak at Evolving Faith in Montreat, NC. She led a meditation on the sanctity of land and tribes who originally cared for it.
Both of my experiences exposed my complacency, or silent violence. I knew I needed to learn more.
After engaging with Kaitlin on social media a few times, I came across activist Denae Shanidiin (@MMIWhoismissing). Honestly, it was the intense beauty of grief that drew me into Denae’s work. She advocates bravely, authentically, and inclusively. She isn’t doing this for popularity or capital gain. This is her healing process and, thankfully, she is taking us on her journey.
It is a wonder to behold. I beg us all to engage nonviolently. Learn. Read the Toolkit. Keep our eyes, ears, and mouths open.
These prints depict the type of healing activism I have seen in Denae and other Indigenous women. They are for sale in our “SHOP” tab. Any profit will be shared with Denae and her advocacy. Thank you for partnering with RECONFIGURE Art, Denae!