FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA— Indigenous women from several states in the country have joined forces to create a series of events to unite people around a common cause. Aimed at bringing awareness to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and colonial gender based violence in the United States and Canada, Tanaya Winder, Duckwater Shoshone/ Paiute/Ute, and Hannabah Blue, Diné, started the Sing Our Rivers Red (SORR) initiative.
Since 1980, over 1,181 Native women and girls in Canada have been reported missing or have been murdered. For over 20 years, there have been marches and events each year throughout Canada on Valentine’s Day to bring awareness to this issue such as the Women’s Memorial March.
Initiatives listed on #ItStartsWithUs. The SORR initiative asks for contributions of American Indian/Indigenous earrings—particularly ones that do not have a match—to represent the victims for a traveling art show with nearly 400 earrings already donated and a goal of 500 more from the Native American Community Academy.
“My mom always says to use the gifts you’ve been given and as a poet, I am a firm believer that art is a powerful weapon,” says Winder. “It’s very powerful to use the earrings as symbols and physical representations to help us relate to the epidemic of murdered and missing women in a different way through art.”
The earring exhibit will remain at NDSU Memorial Gallery throughout the month of February and in March it will travel to University of Colorado Denver where it will be featured at an “Indigenous Women’s Voices” event, where Winder will be performing poetry along with other names such as Joy Harjo, Muskogee, and Jan Gould, Concow.
Both women have worked very closely within different communities throughout Indian Country. Winder is the Director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Upward Bound program, which serves over 100 AI youth from eight states, 22 high schools, and 12 reservations across the U.S. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico and an accomplished poet. Currently, Blue works as a Public Health Services Project Manager and serves on the Board of Directors of Café Cultura (www.cafecultura.org), a non-profit organization that promotes creative expression and leadership among Indigenous and Latino youth through oral traditions of storytelling, spoken word and poetry.
“Bringing awareness about Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women addresses the pervasive ideology that Native and Indigenous women are not valuable and that they are expendable,” says Blue. “The traveling art exhibit does so much to remind each of us of the women who are lost to this ideology.”
This February 2015, they hope to support the efforts built in Canada in the week leading up to Feb 14th, as well as highlight the need for awareness and action to address colonial gender violence in the United States. Events will take place in the Fargo/Moorhead area:
Monday, February 9th, 2015
SORR Speak Out & Earring Art Exhibition (NDSU Memorial Gallery) 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
This event will feature a traveling earring exhibit created with 1,181 single-sided earrings to symbolize the Indigenous women who were stolen, and original art by Navajo muralist/painter Nani Chacon. The event will also include poetry, spoken word, and speakers working on issues involving trafficking, violence, and missing women.
SORR Concert (NDSU Memorial Union Century Theater) Doors open 4:30 PM, Show 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
This event will feature hip-hop artists Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota), recently featured in MTV’s Rebel Music and local Mic Jordan (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas). Special guests include: Diane Miller and Young Jibwe.
Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Missing: The Documentary (Location: MSUM Livingston Lord Library, Rm 103) 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Screening of Missing: The Documentary followed by panel discussion including producer Young Jibwe .
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Arming Sisters Workshop (MSUM Underground @ Comstock Memorial Union 001) 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Arming Sisters is a unique course utilizing women’s self defense to revive self-empowerment, love and ownership of body. Dinner will be provided.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Sing Our Rivers Red Honoring featuring Winona LaDuke (Location TBD) 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Winona LaDuke talk “The Intersection of Violence Against Women and Oil Extraction” and event to honor Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. This event will be to honor Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women as well as the people who have worked in the field to combat violence against women, human trafficking, sexual and reproductive health, LGBTQ2S, and other fields, bringing awareness to this issue. People can send in the names of murdered and missing Indigenous women to be prayed for at this event, as well as those who are working in fields to bring awareness to this issue.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Sing Our Rivers Red March & Rally, (Meet at 12:00 PM at Fargo Public Library. March begins at 12:30 PM to Moorhead Public Library. Rally 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM)
Free hot chocolate and coffee provided at rally.