Saturday, May 27, 2023

March Honors Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

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Stevie Lowry is a current member of the UNCP Spirit Squad. PN Photo/Mahala Treish

By: Zachary C. Young Editor-in-Chief

The Native American Student Organization hosted its annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girl and Two-Spirit walk to commemorate the victims of an epidemic that plagues Indigenous communities.

According to the CDC, Native American women 35 and under experience a higher murder risk than any other ethnic group. On reservations, some Indigenous women populations are 10 times more likely to be killed than the national average murder rate.

For federally recognized tribes, most violent acts are committed by non-Native people on Native lands.

Zachary Jacobs, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and the current NASO President, said it is imperative to host events such as the MMIWG2S walk to promote awareness of an issue that most outside of Indigenous communities are unaware of.

“We always hear about MMIW, but I think we need to have a memorial. It is important to bring awareness, but also to have names involved as well,” Jacobs said. “Even when we were marching, people can see the signs and hopefully do their own research.”

Jacobs said the main thing people should do to help become an ally in the fight against MMIW is to educate themselves and research the deeper effects of colonialism and the historical trauma that is a byproduct of colonialism.

The event consisted of an opening prayer by Rev. Mike Cummings, a drum song, smudging by Reggie Brewer, a speech delivered by Aminah Ghaffar and a candlelight walk from the UC Annex to Old Main.

Once the group arrived at Old Main, Freshman Jeremy Hunt recited an original poem titled “Where is She?” The event concluded with a victory drum song.

In the weeks leading up the walk, NASO held a raffle to raise money to donate to Faith’s Smile Scholarship. Those items included a set of turquoise earrings, beaded earrings, and a Dark Pine t-shirt.

NASO was able to raise $391 via the raffle.

Faith’s Smile Scholarship was established by the family of Faith Hedgepth, who was sophomore at UNC when she was murdered in her off-campus apartment in 2012. She was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe of North Carolina, and until September of this year, there had been no one charged in her murder.

Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares is currently being held without bond for the murder of Faith Hedgepeth.

Stevie Lowry, a sophomore and member of the Lumbee Tribe was in attendance at the event and said it was great way to honor the memories of the women and children who had their voices taken away.

“Just being here and being able to keep this movement alive and well is like keeping them alive and well,” Lowry said.

Aminah Ghaffar, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and currently a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate for the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs served as the guest speaker of the event, and spoke to the generational effects of colonialism on Indigenous populations.

“Its [violence against Indigenous women] something that has been such a pervasive issue in our community, and it has affected everyone here in some way,” Ghaffar said. “Domestic violence and sexual assault are something that is inherently colonial, we weren’t doing that to each other before colonization. We have internalized a lot of oppression in our community and we have to make sure we do the work to hold each other accountable, and also heal and go back to traditional ways of treating each other with respect.”

Ghaffar referenced the Doctrine of Discovery that has been used as legal justification for colonization of lands not occupied by Christians since the late 15th century. Most recently being cited and upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2005.

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