Indigenous women come together to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Month

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 7:42 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - In honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Awareness Month, a group of talented Indigenous women are making a powerful statement.

This remarkable group of Indigenous women in our community have united to shed light on this issue that happens across the nation, and they’re doing it creatively.

“I want them to feel empowered. I want them to feel like they can connect with our pieces and that they are even able to ask questions and feel like they are a part of something.”

Emily Bowman, a local makeup artist and member of the Quechan, Washo, Yana, and Pit River tribes said.

A hairstylist, photographer, body paint artist, makeup artist, and members of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, have collaborated to create a series that sparks conversations through their art.

Clarissa Mashburn, hairstylist and member of the Owens Valley Paiute tribe came up with the idea to use their talents and raise awareness of what happens in their communities.

“It was very meaningful. We wanted to do it in a meaningful way for our ancestors. I mean if we can do it anyone can do it. We’re all just native women and just trying to use our platform to raise awareness of these issues,” Mashburn said.

These women are not simply raising awareness; they are painting a picture of the reality faced by many indigenous women who go missing each year. They explained to me the challenges involved in following up on and furthering investigations. When someone disappears on tribal lands, the lack of resources in their communities hinders proper search efforts.

Britt Gianotti with Body Paint Art is from the Seneca of the Iroquois Nation of southern New York. She shared that this project is bold and hopes it will make people stop and think about what’s at hand,

“I want people to remember, you know remember that this is happening, keep your eyes out if you see something suspicious don’t overlook it,” Gianotti said.

Their artwork resonates with their practice and also pays homage to their culture. Bowman continued,

“It represents to me that we’re strong, you know we’re here, we’re resilient, our people are built that way. That’s is embedded in us and right now for women, it’s just so important for women to see other women doing these kinds of things that are out of the box.”

Becoming an advocate for this group in our community is encouraged by the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the organization hosting an event at the University of Nevada, Reno at the Joe-Crowley Student Union to honor those who are missing or have been murdered.

Honoring MMIW event hosted by ITCN

Kylee Sam of ITCN and a member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe shared,

“I would say believe women, believe them the first time, as an advocate and working in this field part of our job and as a person is to always believe a person when they tell you something.”

Veronica Huerta photographer for this project and Domestic Violence Advocate said,

“When people are dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, or being a victim of crime it’s important to believe them, support and advocate for them. You know their going through so much trauma it’s hard to navigate you know all the different systems that we have. Our biggest goal is to advocate for and believe in them and be that person that supports them through the whole process, especially that healing process. Being able to reach out when you need help on the reservations is hard, it is so secluded that sometimes you just feel alone.”

If you are a descendant of a tribe or an enrolled member and need any support the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada can help.

You can call them at (775) 355-0600.

The 24/7 hotline number for the Family Violence Prevention Program is (775) 722-8794