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March 1, 2019

Refusing to Be Invisible: A Long Walk Home Marches with Indigenous Girls and Women

“We are not Invisible!” Linda Eagle, a speaker at the The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's March called out, with her family standing behind her, as an urgent rallying cry.

On February 14, Valentine's Day, I travelled to Minnesota with our Girl/Friend youth leaders to march alongside Indigenous girls and women for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's March, now in its 5th year, which is organized by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, and several community-based organizations. We joined thousands of Indigenous activists who were holding signs of #BringHerHome, carrying photos, and saying the names and holding the stories of their missing and murdered loved ones.

While Black and Indigenous girls have gone missing and murdered at alarming rates and continue to experience violence disproportionately, their stories are hidden in policy data, the media, and in our country’s collective consciousness. This has led activists around the country to organize and put pressure on law enforcement and governmental institutions to pay attention to these tragedies.

Indigenous women and girls experience violence at disproportionately high rates–it is estimated that 84% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and that murder is the third-leading cause of death. This violence has gone largely unacknowledged, with missing and murdered women and girls literally falling off the radar–missing persons reports never filed, no media coverage, and lack of response or recording of these cases by police and other jurisdictions. Black girls and women represent about 7% of Americans, but alarmingly represent over 35% of all missing person’s cases in United States.

We recognize that the visibility felt in our community, is similar to the invisibility felt by Black women and girls who are also experiencing high rates of violence. It is critical to these issues and to our collective liberation and visibility that we stand beside one another and stand in our power as sisters. -Nicole Matthews, Executive Director, Minnesota Women's Sexual Assault Coalition

For the past two years, A Long Walk Home and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition have worked together to build an essential coalition for justice and human rights. As our girls and women share these similar vulnerabilities and oppressions, our organizations have made it our mission to stand in solidarity with Indigenous women and girls and continue to uplift the names and the stories of Black girls who have gone missing and murdered in Chicago.

Girl/Friend, Aliyah Young spoke about the urgent need to organize and fight on behalf of girls of color. "When we really show up for each other, as Black and Indigenous girls, we are telling our communities, and our country that we refuse to be invisible. They will see us."

Girl/Friend Zilah Harris also discussed what it means for Black and Indigenous girls to march alongside one another. "I march here in solidarity with Indigenous women and girls because our stories are connected. Black and Indigenous girls are missing and murdered and the media turns a blind eye, our communities fail to show up for us. I march because if we don't march for each other, who will?"

Dureen Burnette holds a “Justice for Becky” sign during the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples March. Burnette’s niece, Rebecca Anderson, died after she was severely beaten in south Minneapolis in 2015. Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Girl/Friends at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March. Scheherazade Tillet

Art by lizar_tistry