MISSOULA — The event is intended to raise educational awareness about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis and its far-reaching impacts to recognize. Community Members and Professional Agencies are invited to attend a candlelight vigil and community event on May 5th to honor the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 

The program will take place 7–9:30 pm, outside the Payne Family Native American Center on the UM campus. 

Missoula Project Beacon coordinated the event with partner agencies: SARC, YWCA Missoula, First Step Resource Center, ACLU of Montana, Crime Victim Advocates, Zootown Arts Community Center, American Indian Student Services, Partnership Health Center, Poverello Center, Alternative Missoula Radio, The Branch Center, UM Presidents Office, Inclusive Excellence, Indigenous Vision and leadership from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

We will light the UM Main Hall RED to honor those taken and their families. More than 2/3 of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced lifetime violence (84.3 percent). More than half of all women also have experienced sexual (56.1 percent) and relationship-based (55.1 percent) violence. The AIAN murder rate is over 10X the national average in some counties. Yet too little is known about the primary prevention of violence, and survivors are underserved or even harmed by systems ill-prepared to help Native American survivors. 

"Most, if not all, our Indigenous family and community members have experienced sexual or domestic violence, or have a loved one who was murdered or is missing," said Lauren Small Rodriguez, the Program Director of Missoula Project Beacon at All Nations Health Center. 

"This is a health crisis, not just on a national level but also right here in Missoula, and we still have limited resources and avenues to address it."

Missoula Project Beacon is the first Indigenous-led program in the state dedicated explicitly to supporting Indigenous survivors of trafficking and sexual violence. The program's goal is to provide culturally appropriate care and advocacy in collaboration with community agencies, law enforcement, healthcare teams, and community members.

The May 5th event will include stories from MMIW family members, a blessing from a tribal elder of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), a musical performance from Indigenous Singers Shawn White Grass and Brittney Hunter, leaders from CSKT will also share an update on their Tribal Community Response Plan (TCRP), one of the first tribal-led protocols for missing persons and victim services in the country. Finishing the event is a walking candlelight vigil around the Oval with red lights cast upon Main Hall.

We all have an opportunity to use our voices and collective resources for action, It is our duty as community members, health professionals, and law enforcement to educate ourselves and connect. Together, we can create viable solutions.

We will also have a virtual event before our main event on May 4th, "Healing Sister Through Resilience," from 1–2 pm. Dr. Annie Belcourt, Joni KickingWomen, and Missoula Project Beacon (MPB) staff will present their work on the panel discussion.

MPB will also present the Indigenous Sexual Assault Awareness Virtual Campaign with a collective empowerment message to address the prevalence of Sexual Violence within Indigenous communities both on the reservations and in urban communities. https://www.umt.edu/student-advocacy-resource-center/saam/default1.php Or https://umontana.zoom.us/j/99181140998

Article Sources: https://www.ncai.org/policy-research-center/research-data/prc-publications/VAWA_Data_Brief__FINAL_2_1_2018.pdf

Visit (Missoula Project Beacon Facebook page) for updates about the event. https://www.facebook.com/missoulaprojectbeacon

You can also visit our non-profit organization, All Nations Health Center: https://www.allnations.health/missoula-project-beacon/ , https://www.allnations.health , https://www.facebook.com/allnationsmissoula

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