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The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement- Be an Ally!

Indigenous women are murdered and or sexually assaulted at a rate 10 times the national average but due to spotty data and media bias, no one truly knows the real number of Indigenous girls or women who go missing or experience violent hate crimes. In 2019, 8,162 Indigenous youth and 2,285 Indigenous adults were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center, but the fact remains that many crimes against Native individuals often go unreported. In the cases of American Indian and Alaskan Indian, it has been noted that their race is sometimes ignored or misclassified as white. The real number is thus blurred. 

Indigenous girls and women are facing an epidemic. Their lives are at risk and their safety, or lack thereof, is overlooked. In 2015, First Nations women and families in Canada forced the Canadian government to initiate a national inquiry leading other similar groups in the United States to achieve the same. It was during the Canadian government’s inquiry the hashtag #MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women) picked up the pace on Twitter producing 55,400 unique users and 156.1 million impressions. As of 2020, Twitter metrics report that #MMIW tweets can generate several hundred thousand impressions every 4 hours. The hashtag is a small allyship tool making a huge impact, mobilizing advocacy for Indigenous women and girls with advocacy groups being created in provinces and states across North America.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement (MMIW) has made substantial efforts to draw attention to the disproportionate violence experienced by Indigenous women. The movement has sadly noted that due to historical trauma, including but not limited to forced relocation and forced assimilation, Indigenous Peoples do not trust authorities and so, they do not report crimes they are experiencing. This is why it is critical that the MMIW movement have our allyship. As with all movements, the more support one advocacy group has from another, the more attention it gains. The more attention the movement grasps, the better chances their concerns will be heard and actioned. 

Genuine allyship is needed. Allyship isn’t just showing up in solidarity and speaking out against unjust systems, it involves actively doing whatever is within our power to dismantle the system, make clear separations between ourselves and the opponents of these groups and change our behaviours being mindful that we are not contributing to the system. Rodney Dillon, Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Advisor, in his plea for allyship said, “We need supporters like you to campaign on these things, talking to pollies. It’s important for us as an organisation to be that bridge between two groups. I think that non-Indigenous peoples’ support and influence can be really, really important to make change. The people who put the wall up, I can understand why it’s there, but the people who pull it down – they’re the ones we need.”

To be allies, we must follow the Indigenous People’s lead. At The New Feminist, we pledge to be allies and we urge all our reads to follow suit. There isn’t one way to be an ally but by following Amnesty International and Greenpeace, below we are happy to share a few suggestions to help us all get started.

  1. Listen and learn: Initiate conversation with Indigenous women, seek out knowledge on their history, who they were forced to become today, the promises that were made to them by their governments and weren’t kept, the experiences of crime they face and their feelings of unsafety. Listen to understand and listen with belief. Listen to what they believe are the solutions to their circumstances and make plans with them. Building strong relationships with the Indigenous people ensures your efforts are for their betterment and not just for solidarity. 
  2. Educate yourself about the structural discrimation towards and intentional elimination of Native tribes: The history of genocide towards Indigenous Peoples led to the systemic health and wealth disparities that exist today. Check out Megan Tipler on Instagram. Megan shares many facts and resources that will help you gain an understanding of the Indigenous People’s history and lasting impacts of forced residential schooling and assimilation of Indigenous children. Representation matters, seek out Native media, read books by Indigenous authors and watch movies/shows written by and starring Natives.
  3. Centre the stories around community: To be a genuine ally, it is important to amplify the voices of the Indigenous communities. Share their messages with your networks in their words without alteration.
  4. Support Indigenous Peoples as they protect their land from destructive, extractive practices: As the Indigenous People are on the frontline of the climate crisis, dedicated to protecting endangered lands, water and animals, industries like mining, logging, and fossil fuels are some of the largest perpetuating factors of violence, trafficking, and murder against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. As an ally, we recognize their centuries of resistance and stand alongside them as they fight to protect this planet and their lives.
  5. Follow and share content from Indigenous leaders: We are living in the Social Media era and it is the perfect platform to follow Indigenous leaders. This thread by Greenpeace is a start 
  6. Support the call for Indigenous sovereignty and Land Back: Be part of the demand to restore stolen lands to Indigenous Peoples. Different provinces and states have funds that support rematriation of Indgenous lands to Indigenous Peoples, find one where you live, or closest to you, to contribute to.
  7. Do not support the erasure of history or problematic representations of the past: Healing begins when settlers acknowledge that their country was founded on genocide and capitalism. As Industrial colonization continues to date to rob Indigenous communities of their land, murderers of Indigenous Peoples walk free and more than 14,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women cases go unsolves, genocide is not a thing of the past. It is still happening and it will continue to happen if we continue to support the erasure of their history and ignore the reality of it.
  8. Fostering understanding when speaking with non-allies: Before attacking someone for not being an ally, allies should try to find out the reasons why the non-ally positions themselves against the Indigenous People. An ally needs to have an understanding of a non-allies position in order to start to unpack these notions with compassion. Pamela Rose Toulous, an Anishinaabe Indigenous woman and associate professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, encourages allies to find emotional ways to connect the person with the truth. “Try to get someone to think about how they would feel if their children were taken away, as was the case for many Indigenous parents whose children were forced to attend residential schools,” she said. “The ally needs to plant that seed of discomfort in the non-ally to think about and empathize with what marginalized communities dealt with.’

Committing to be an ally isn’t easy and it can become emotionally tasking, but we cannot change the way the system treats marginalised groups without people from the side of privilege and power rallying against it.