AP NEWS

New space dedicated to missing, slain indigenous women

June 3, 2019
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The entry to the Red Ribbon Skirt Societies Center for Healing Prayer and Remembrance for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the Racing Magpie in Rapid City., S.D. The organization wants to raise awareness about the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women, children, two-spirited and transgender people. (Adam Fondren/Rapid City Journal via AP)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A Rapid City group has dedicated space inside an arts center for the communities and families of missing and murdered Native American women.

The Red Ribbon Skirt Society opened a healing center at the Racing Magpie in March, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The organization wants to raise awareness about the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women, children, two-spirited and transgender people. Their plight has been highlighted in a national movement marked by marches, vigils and legislation.

On its website, the Indian Health Service says two-spirited people include members of the LGBTQ community, though the term can be applied more broadly and “does not simply mean someone who is a Native American/Alaska Native and gay.”

Lily Mendoza, who founded the group, said the center serves as a place for prayer, reflection and healing.

“At least families can go somewhere to pray and feel that maybe their presence may be there or their spirit is there to help them through that process,” she said.

The organization’s members also meet weekly to work on projects, plan events and continue educating themselves about violence against Native American women.

A 2008 study funded by the Department of Justice found that in some counties, indigenous women are killed at a rate more than 10 times the national average. The Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute has noted that data and media coverage about missing and murdered indigenous women are often incomplete.

Carla Douglas, a member of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society, added that when transgender people go missing or are killed, police sometimes share their wrong gender with the media or unsupportive families call them by their old name.

The group earlier this year created an exhibit displaying the names of missing and murdered Native American women at Rapid City’s Journey Museum and Learning Center. Several families traveled to the installation and left prayer offerings, which inspired the group to create the healing space, Mendoza said.

“Some of the families felt like their child, their mother, their whoever, had been forgotten and so I felt that we needed to make sure that they weren’t,” she said.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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