With the intense, blooming greens of springtime juxtaposed towards a sea of purple shirts and clothes, and tribal flags blowing within the breeze above them, a whole lot of Indigenous residents marched by means of Grand Rapids on Friday to amplify the nation’s epidemic of lacking, murdered and Indigenous individuals (MMIP).
“Violence towards Indigenous individuals is an epidemic. And we is not going to be silent, we is not going to cease, and we’ll demand that you just work with us to cease it so that each particular person can reside free from violence,” stated Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Chief Choose Melissa L. Pope.
The second annual March for MMIP drew a big crowd in Ah-Nab-Awen (“Resting Place”) Park, amid mounds of earth meant to commemorate Native burial mounds that had been looted and destroyed by settlers within the mid-1800s.
The solemn, peaceable gathering for lacking and murdered Indigenous family was marked by a flag procession, tune and dance, ceremony and prayer amid speeches from leaders, advocates and officers.
Audio system included tribal chairpersons, together with Ron Yob for the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, Rebecca Richards for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Bob Peters for the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan and Jamie Caught for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.
U.S. Lawyer for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten; Melissa Kiesewetter, tribal liaison and Native American specialist with the Michigan Division of Civil Rights; and Rachel Carr-Shunk of Uniting Three Fires Towards Violence, a tribal sufferer advocacy group primarily based in Sault Ste. Marie additionally spoke on the occasion.
“Loads of instances in Indian Nation or when you’re an Indigenous particular person, you typically really feel invisible,” Carr-Shunk advised the Advance. “Our tales should not coated.”
She stated that not solely are most non-Native Michiganders oblivious to the epidemic of lacking and murdered Indigenous individuals, however she feels that many settlers should not even conscious that there are 12 tribes in Michigan — not to mention their wealthy tradition, traditions and historical past.
Elevating consciousness is a primary step to fixing the underlying, complicated issues which have plagued Indigenous communities for therefore lengthy, Carr-Shunk stated.
In the USA, Native ladies are 10 instances extra prone to be murdered than all different ethnicities. Different cases of violence additionally happen at disproportionately larger charges for Indigenous individuals; and because of complicating components, fixing circumstances involving crimes towards Native individuals occurs at a far decrease fee, Carr-Shunk famous.
“Due to issues past our management [like] Supreme Courtroom choices, legal guidelines and insurance policies, tribes are left with their palms tied to supply security and justice in our personal communities … in a method that’s reflective of our tradition and our id,” Carr-Shunk stated.
She stated that with the brand new Democratic-led state Legislature, she hopes that lawmakers will transfer swiftly to vary this. Carr-Shunk pointed to Home Invoice 4516, sponsored by state Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse Metropolis), for instance. The invoice would formally increase home violence assets to tribal service suppliers, who proper now should not eligible to obtain the essential sufferer providers funding.
After the gang of tribal elders, Indigenous advocates and allies made the sluggish, deliberate procession throughout bridges and streets in central Grand Rapids, extra audio system echoed the necessity for non-Native individuals, entities and governments to assist amplify the trigger.
Kiesewetter learn aloud Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proclamation declaring Might 5, 2023, as Murdered and Lacking Indigenous Individuals Consciousness Day. President Joe Biden equally issued a prolonged proclamation on Thursday doing the identical.
“As many as 85% of Indigenous Two Spirit people who fulfill certainly one of many blended gender roles historically discovered in lots of Indigenous teams have been a sufferer of violence,” Kiesewetter learn from Whitmer’s proclamation.
Advocates additionally had a message for the media: “That you must take discover when individuals of shade are murdered and are lacking,” stated Caught, who chairs the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.
“If you happen to don’t know, there’s no disgrace in it. Nevertheless it’s our duty to be taught,” stated Melissa Isaac, a citizen of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
“We’re additionally not our ache tales. That doesn’t outline who we’re. That’s evident at the moment.”