Indigenous community marks MMIW Day of Action with prayer, remembrance

February 14 is the MMIW National Day of Action and Awareness in the United States and Canada. Locally, the Red Ribbon Skirt Society held a candlelight vigil to mark the occasion.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — On Monday, groups across the United States and Canada marked the “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women National Day of Action and Awareness.” The Red Ribbon Skirt Society gathered supporters in downtown Rapid City for a candlelight vigil.

The occasion also recognizing recent grief, with two young women from the Oglala Sioux Tribe having been found dead in the past ten days. Cheryl “Tia” Long Soldier (age 27) and Shayna Youngman Afraid Of His Horses (age 17) were both reported missing before being found dead on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Lily Mendoza is the founder of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society. She says the MMIW Day of Action and Awareness is recognized across the country, and in Canada, with walks and other gatherings. For locals in the Indigenous community, the timing is important.

“It comes at an opportune time, especially with the young women we recently lost…it’s just very important that we remember our stolen sisters, and so that’s what we’re going to be doing,” Mendoza says.

The group was led in prayer by Red Ribbon Skirt Society member and MMIW advocate Darla Black. She says they’re always working towards awareness, prevention, and justice.

“I think working together with the media and everybody coming together with activities like this to say, ‘hey, you’re not forgotten; our sisters are not forgotten,'” Black says. “We love you; we are your voice. We’re going to continue with the work that we do.”

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Darla Black, a member of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society, leads the candlelight vigil with a prayer. The group gathered in downtown Rapid City to honor and remember those missing and murdered Indigenous women. Two women from the Pine Ridge Reservation were found dead in the past 10 days; one has been confirmed as a homicide. (February 14, 2022)

According to the Association on American Indian Affairs, Indigenous people are two-and-a-half times more likely to experience violent crimes, while homicide is the third leading cause of death among Indigenous women ages 10 to 24. 84.3% of American Indian and Alaska Native women report having experienced violence in their lifetime.

“We want to bring awareness, first of all, because of prevention. We want to educate our young women, but not just our young women…our young men too, because they’re going missing,” Black adds.

The group prayed quietly, standing in a circle while the drum beats echoed into the night, carrying the prayers of those in attendance with them.

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