Rep. Sharice Davids (D-03-Kansas) with MMIW activists Cante Heart, Sunny Red Bear and Nikkote Bostnar.
Published April 24, 2019
PHOENIX — A national campaign to raise awareness and build momentum for meaningful federal legislation to impact the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) tragedy arrives in Arizona on April 25. Backed by members of the US Congress, including Arizona Congressmen Ruben Gallego and Raúl M. Grijalva, the first MMIW billboard will appear in Representative Gallego’s district in Phoenix, near the iconic Heard Museum.
“We need to work in partnership with the communities that have been struck by these tragedies in order to find real-world, tangible solutions to this crisis and end this cycle of violence,” said Rep. Gallego of the MMIW epidemic. As Chair of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, Rep. Gallego recently held the first Congressional hearing on MMIW.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-01-New Mexico)
The Urban Indian Health Institute’s 2018 MMIW report identified Arizona as the state with the third highest incidence of MMIW cases, with Phoenix and Tucson eleventh and fourth respectively among US cities most affected by the tragedy.
The MMIW billboard campaign was introduced by the Global Indigenous Council (GIC), the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC) and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA), representing some fifty-tribes across multiple states. The tribal alliance began the campaign in South Dakota in January before it moved north and southwest. Arizona-based KIVA Institute, led by former Hopi chairman, Ben Nuvamsa, has joined the campaign in the 21-tribe state.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) was the first lawmaker to publicly endorse the campaign, and MMIW billboards have been raised in New Mexico to coincide with the Gathering of Nations powwow. “The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women has been my top priority since long before being sworn into Congress,” emphasized Rep. Haaland.
The RMTLC-GIC-GPTCA tribal alliance has been influential in securing the introduction of legislation to address the MMIW crisis. Steered by delegates Rain Bear Stands Last and Tom Rodgers, the alliance has generated bipartisan support for its amendments to Savanna’s Act, first sponsored by North Dakota’s former-Senator, Heidi Heitkamp, who described the MMIW billboard campaign as “one of the most powerful and important things” to undertake. “This is a very important campaign and it will bring much needed awareness to the ongoing tragedy,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has reintroduced Savanna’s Act in the 116th Congress with Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).
The RMTLC-led alliance worked closely with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) on the Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act which cleared the House on April 9 and has moved to the Senate. Tester’s Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full review of how federal agencies respond to reports of missing and murdered Native Americans and recommend solutions based on their findings.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana)
“This billboard campaign is one of the most important things that can be done for the MMIW epidemic, because without awareness there will be no change. People need to know that this has been happening for decades. This is a way to bring it to their attention,” said Senator Tester.
“In 15-years of conflict in Iraq the US suffered 4,541 fatalities. In 2016 alone, there were 5,712 reported MMIWG cases in the US. That should provide pause and spotlight the importance of the billboard campaign,” underscored Tom Rodgers, Vice President of Global Indigenous Council. Updates on the campaign can be found at: www.mmiw-gic.com
Conceptualized for the GPTCA-RMTLC-GIC alliance by Alter-Native Media, the MMIW billboard campaign has been independently funded by non-profit groups, including Nation Unsevered, a Beltway-based organization committed to supporting tribal self-determination.
Photos courtesy of Alter-Native Media.