A report released by the Urban Indian Health Institute in 2018 shows that over 500 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women have been found throughout the United States – many since the year 2000. 70 women had gone missing or were murdered in Seattle and Tacoma. 6 were reported in Portland. How are indigenous families impacted by this and how are our communities coming together to help? (more…)
Indigenous women have taken the lead in increasing awareness of the high numbers of their sisters who go missing and die to violence. KBCS’s Yuko Kodama takes you to a red skirt sewing circle, a community building event which builds support for, honors, and assists in the healing of the community mourning their missing and murdered indigenous women. Thanks to Jesse Callahan for help with editing.
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Indigenous women have taken the lead in increasing awareness of the high numbers of their sisters who go missing and die to violence. Roxanne White from the earlier story organized a community building event with the focus of supporting indigenous women. KBCS’s Yuko Kodama went to the gathering and brought back this story.
I walked into a small church in Renton, there’s a large spread of food and drinks in the corner, a potluck. A handful of kids chase each other in the hallway and under tables. The table tops are covered with sewing machines and brightly colored material. On the walls are posters with photos of women. There’s bold lettering saying “missing”, then the woman’s name, and the date and place of their last sighting. The event is a red skirt sewing circle. It’s a community building event for women to come together to sew ribbon skirts. This sewing circle was themed for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A group of about 11 women and youth work away at measuring, cutting and sewing fabric to make the skirts – an a-line long skirt decorated with brightly colored ribbons and patterns. This ribbon skirt or prayer skirt is ceremonial regalia of the plains tribes. Noel Parrish is from the plains area. She’s from the Crane Clan of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Parrish describes what the prayer skirt represents.
We wear our skirt because we, as women, as life givers, are sacred. Our colors connects us to the Mother Earth and who we are as women, as life givers. And so we choose our colors so that creator knows who we are.
I’m no expert. I’m a Yakama woman, but the way I feel about it is is that when I put this skirt on, it’s sacred. And it’s a covering. It’s a protection. It’s who I am as a woman is an indigenous woman, a native woman.
That was Roxanne White from the Yakama, Nez Perce, Nooksack, and Gros Ventre tribes. White is a leader in the missing and murdered Indigenous women movement. She’s also the organizer of the sewing circle. The ribbons, skirts are plains tribes regalia. Indigenous women from other tribes began wearing them in solidarity with the tribes at Standing Rock. The skirts have taken on an additional life, as a symbol of prayer and solidarity among women, which is relevant at this event: the red skirt sewing circle.
Women’s skirts is becoming a thing where women, from all tribes, from all nations, are excited to make their own ribbon skirt. We decided to have this event open because of the importance of solidarity and how we all work together as one people. This is good medicine. It’s for each one of these women and their children and their families. Even the little kids, even the little girls went and picked out their material and whatever they saw themselves wearing. And then they’ll learn and when they wear it, they’re going to feel proud because they’re wearing culture. And that’s what it’s all about.
So the women at the red skirt sewing circle are building a nurturing support network for each other amidst the growing number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. For KBCS. This is Yuko Kodama.
The red skirt sewing circle was held in December of 2018.
Roxanne White, of the Yakama, Nez Perce, Nooksack and Gros Ventre tribes, is an activist who advocates for the families of missing and murdered women (MMIW). KBCS’s Yuko Kodama spoke with White about the MMIW movement at an indigenous prayer skirt sewing circle organized as a community building event in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.