Xander DeVries

Members of the Yale community convened around the Women’s Table on Friday night to commemorate the lives of Indigenous women and learn about long-standing inequities that Indigenous communities face.

Last week, the Association of Native Americans at Yale organized a vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Cross Campus. Attendees demonstrated solidarity and support for Native organizations in their goals to raise awareness and develop comprehensive solutions for deep-seated issues facing Indigenous communities. ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21 opened the vigil with background information regarding the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The group educated the audience on both the current scope of the issue as well as underlying historical factors.

“It’s essential that we understand missing and murdered Indigenous women as not a singular crisis, but as part of the larger settler-colonial project which seeks to undermine Indigenous sovereignty, erase Indigenous cultures and history and rewrite American history as one of bravery and equality instead of one of enslavement, genocide and capitalism,” Gupta said.

She stated that the “tangled legal web of jurisdiction” and the American government’s inaction have contributed to the continuing crisis, adding that the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis is a problem inextricably linked to other injustices Indigenous communities faced. She emphasized that the crisis is often especially felt by transgender and black Indigenous women. According to Gupta, this transnational crisis also affects Indigenous women at Yale.

Gupta ended her opening remarks with a call to action, urging attendees to consider their positionality and “make our struggles your struggles.” She specifically pointed to the need for a national database for missing women, greater sovereignty for Indigenous communities and jurisdiction for native governments as well as broader social and political awareness.

Following Gupta’s statements, members of the native community recounted their personal experiences with the crisis. Red Territory, a Native American drum and music group, also performed several pieces at the event.

Jamuna Galay-Tumang, a visiting research fellow from British Columbia, spoke about protests currently occurring at Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia, due to the proposed construction of oil pipelines. She said this violation of the Indigenous communities’ land parallels a disregard for Indigenous women’s consent.

Jay Fife ’22 discussed his community with attendees, underscoring the “intergenerational trauma” experienced by Indigenous families and tribes. He said these troubles are evident in “the pain that Indigenous people endured for centuries.”

Other speakers touched on the legacies of past injustices against Native Americans, the complexity of decolonization efforts, and the need for solidarity with other marginalized groups. Members from the Women’s Center, the Endowment Justice Coalition and Despierta Boricua at Yale respectively offered statements of support and allyship following the speakers. In these remarks, the groups echoed Gupta’s prior sentiment that other activist movements must take into account the voices, perspectives and issues of Indigenous communities.

The Association of Native Americans at Yale was founded in 1989.

Neha Middela | neha.middela@yale.edu