In an effort to maintain heightened awareness following a Feb. 14 vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women, Association of Native Americans at Yale organizers have posted flyers around campus with the names and faces of missing Native women.
The ANAAY organized the Valentine’s Day vigil at the Women’s Table on Cross Campus to remember the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to raise awareness about the historical and contemporary inequities Indigenous communities face. Following the vigil, missing-people posters began appearing on bulletin boards in academic buildings and in public outdoor spaces around campus. Former ANAAY President Gabriella Blatt ’21, who organized poster distribution, said that the posters depict 76 missing Native women.
“Sometimes it can feel hard to wrap your mind around such a big issue,” said current ANAAY President Meghanlata Gupta ’21, who belongs to the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “And I think [the posters] make it very tangible and very real and very uncomfortable, because you’re seeing how many posters there are, [and] that’s just a fraction of the number of women who are missing right now.”
A team of students associated with the ANAAY and the Native American Cultural Center helped Blatt and Gupta distribute the posters, which, in addition to the names and faces of the missing women, provide physical descriptors and information about their last known whereabouts. Blatt said she was able to find only a handful of flyers within police-run databases of missing persons, and she used crowd-sourced platforms like Facebook to find other flyers created by family and friends of the missing women. The dearth of police-generated flyers, she said, spoke to a broader issue of neglect of missing and murdered Native women by law enforcement institutions.
Blatt said that many in Yale’s Native community have a personal stake in the MMIW movement — they have been impacted by the disappearances and deaths of women they either knew firsthand or knew of through friends in their hometowns.
“Everyone knows somebody,” said Blatt, who belongs to the Chippewa Cree tribe on the Rocky Boy Reservation. “I think having the posters up is also a way to bring our communities here and the issues we face back in our homeland.”
The vigil’s organizers have taken several steps to ensure the movement maintains its momentum. In addition to hanging posters, Gupta said, they sprinkled red sand over the cobblestone pathways on Cross Campus to symbolize how violence against Native women too often slips through the cracks of the justice system.
Gupta also wrote a Feb. 20 News opinion piece entitled “On the MMIW crisis,” in which she linked the national epidemic of violence against Indigenous women to recently released results of the Association of American Universities’ 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd held a public town hall meeting several weeks ago to discuss the survey results with the NACC, during which Gupta said Boyd shared that almost 50 percent of Native women have been sexually assaulted at Yale.
“Attending the meeting and hearing about the AAU survey results was a viscerally upsetting experience,” said NACC first-year liaison Hema Patel ’23, who belongs to the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe tribe. “Sometimes, people feel so distanced from the truth of violence against Native women and girls, but seeing these results directly connected to the people on our campus will hopefully spark some emotion from the Yale community to take action.”
Blatt and Gupta both spoke about initiatives they hoped to undertake to help maintain campus-wide awareness about the MMIW movement in the coming months. They said that forming partnerships between the NACC and institutions like the Communication and Consent Educators, the Title IX office and Yale Mental Health and Counseling would create a spotlight on the movement as an issue of women’s health and safety.
The NACC is hosting a teach-in and short film screening about the Wet’suwet’en protest against pipeline construction in SSS 114 at 7 p.m. this Wednesday. The NACC is located at 26 High St.
Olivia Tucker | firstname.lastname@example.org