Kalispel Tribe Holds Ceremony to Honor Local Women Missing on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples Day
Passing the casino packed with slot machine music and bright neon lights at the Northern Quest Resort & Casino, a silent crowd of about 80 people listened to the Frog Island Singers of the Kalispel tribes perform a somber ceremonial drum song.
Sixty-five red robes hung from the ceiling on Thursday, as part of the Kalispel Indian tribe‘s commemoration of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day.
While some tribes may have chosen to honor a larger community of murdered and missing Native people, the Kalispel tribe focused on Native women.
“With this installation, the Kalispel Tribe and Northern Quest Casino are bringing attention to our mission mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, daughters and nieces in an effort to raise awareness of the violence of this epidemic,” said member Nick Pierre. from Kalispel.
According to a US Department of Justice study, Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than all other ethnic and gender groups in America.
Four out of five Aboriginal women will be victims of violence. More than half will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
The Kalispel tribe has compiled a full list of 60 missing indigenous people. The list is extensive, ranging from Janice Hannigan, who was reported missing in March 1971, to Dawson A. Poorbear, missing since April 13. The list also details the legal agencies to which the report was directed, from the Seattle Police Department to Yakima Community Service. Office.
There are reportedly 126 people missing in Washington who are not on the list because these cases have not been investigated. Prior to awareness day, five more names were brought to the Kalispel tribe and were not on the list.
A 126-second minute of silence was observed to honor those who died.
Above the list, nearly 60 red dresses of all sizes hung on display. Indigenous Canadian artist Jaime Black created the first exhibit in 2011 at the University of Winnipeg. This work of artistic activism has been adapted across North America.
“Red is a powerful color that transcends the physical world and calls our ancestors to the spiritual world,” Pierre said.
Assorted dresses swayed in the display of the casino ceiling: a flowy dress perfect for a teenage girl’s springtime adventure, a toddler-sized layered dress for someone’s first birthday photos .
They tugged at the heartstrings, as if onlookers imagined the departed spirits missing inside the clothes. At the center of the dress display was a jingle dress, specially designed for MMIP Awareness Day by Kalispel Tribe member Stephanie Shoop. In the center of the velvet robe was a red handprint, the symbol usually painted on the mouth of MMIP supporters. Shoop used deer bone ornaments carved in the shape of elk teeth, which are a symbol of the valor of the girl or woman who received the teeth.
Red dresses symbolizing missing and murdered Native women hang from the ceiling during an awareness ceremony for the 60 missing Native women in Washington state Thursday, May 5, 2022, at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Airway Heights, Washington (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesperson Review)
“It was really important that we find dresses of all sizes, shapes, styles and age ranges to reflect the diversity of Indigenous women that are missing. We tried to keep in mind…the proportions of young children that are missing from the population of Indigenous women,” said Kalispel member Kyndra Gamache. “It’s hard to understand the 65 women who are missing, but you can’t understand what a problem it is if you see all these dresses and how many there are. It’s a great way to give it reality instead of people thinking it’s an abstract number.
Kurt Holmes, a member of Kalispel who is soon expecting a daughter, also opened up about the ongoing crisis. As his family prepares to welcome a new spirit, he recalls feelings of guilt and worry for his unborn child.
“Part of it is like…should I hope for a boy because they’re a little safer?” Holmes said. “It’s the world we live in right now, and it’s not OK…this stuff goes on, it’s what it says, that Indigenous women are less important and don’t mean as much. We need to raise awareness of this. »
Tribal elder Shirley Blackbear fought through tears in the event’s closing remarks, citing an appreciation for those in attendance for Indigenous women.
“These women who are lost, the children, the aunts, the mothers, maybe even the grandmothers – they are an important part of our native culture, they are our life givers, they protect the home, the healers” , said Blackbear. “Each red dress represents what we truly believe…this is an important day for all of us to remember where we came from and honor those missing ladies and children.”
After the event, Blackbear called her role as an elder a generational responsibility, particularly her closeness to survivors of violence against Indigenous women, which she called a “crisis.”
“Events like these are welcomed, needed and with the crowds that have gathered here, it was something that was appreciated,” she said.