Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day
Perhaps you've seen the red dresses in the trees outside of Grace this week.
These dresses are hung in solidarity with the REDress Project - "An aesthetic response to the [problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)]." The various dresses, in different shapes and sizes are intended as stand-ins for the women that go missing across the United States and Canada every year. Some people see the dress as a symbol of a woman that vanished from that space, others see it as an unfinished thought from a women who didn't come home, but everyone brings their own experience. Whatever your experience is, we hope that it is evocative and stirring for you.
May 5th is a National Day of Awareness for MMIW, or Missing & Murdered Indigenous People. The latest available statistics are that 84% of Native Women in particular are murdered at a rate that is ten times the national average. Montana has one of the highest per capita rates in the nation for this national tragedy, and Billings in partiular is known as a "hub" or a "Truck Stop State" in trafficking circles based on our proximity to two different states and the I-90 corridor.
If you are already painfully aware of this national travesty, and you've grown weary of more ribbons and sand, your thoughts may turn to what else you can do.
Contact your elected officials.
Nationally - Before identity theft became so widely acknowledged victims of identity theft often faced circular logic over where and how to report the crime and who might actually receive the report. National guidance on jurisdiction helped streamline and similarly simplify this approach. Similarly, one of the many reasons trafficking on and near reservations is a crime of opportunity is the confusing jurisdictional overlap that stems from an indigenous nation with their own police representation, federal agencies that have obligations and authority, located within the boundaries of a state with their own jurisdiction and authority.
Locally - Local officials recently passed efforts aimed at making it harder for "massage parlors" to operate within Billings.
Talk to Hotels
Ask hotels where you stay if they participate in "No Room for Trafficking". Traffickers often move their victims around either to avoid detection, or to meet commercial sex demand in a hotel where you may be staying. The American Hotel and Lodging Association has created a training program to teach employees to spot signs of potential trafficking and offer traffickers "no room" to operate.
Locally groups like Tumbleweed help serve homeless teens in Billings (64% of survivors indicate they were lured into trafficking because of housing instability or fear of living on the streets), and the HER Campaign serves to support survivors of human trafficking.
Protect Others - 233733
We have a small number of sterilized and individually wrapped awareness bands that have a subtle imprinting of the text line for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. If you or someone you know found themselves in an emergency situation, a text to 233733 helps the National Human Trafficking Hotline geolocate their last known location.
Thank you for your support of the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.