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Thoughts on “Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water”

—By Rick Kitchen

“Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water” is the name for our upcoming 3rd annual vigil in Houdini Plaza in downtown Appleton on February 14th. If you are interested in this hybrid (live and live-streamed) event, here is the ESTHER link: Standing Together, Speaking Out for MMIWG2S, Land & Water. The vigil is co-hosted by Kristin Welch’s Waking Women Healing Institute (WWHI) and ESTHER.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2 Spirits (MMIWG2S) is an epidemic across North America, which is known as Turtle Island to Indigenous people. Indigenous people want an end to molestation, rape, trafficking, and murder. American Indians and Alaskan Natives are 2.5x as likely to experience violent crimes and at least 2x more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes compared to all other races. In the United States and Canada, an average of 40% of the women who were victims of sex trafficking identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native. About 85% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and more than 55% of Indigenous women experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

ESTHER folks have been working on various projects related to MMIWG2S this last year and many of them had the help of our partners WWHI and the Native Justice Coalition (NJC). Due to coronavirus variants that have been sweeping the country, many events went virtual or were postponed. Some events were held in person, with social distancing and masking.

We had our 2nd annual MMIWG2S vigil in Houdini Plaza on February 14th, 2021. Part of it was live streamed to Kristin’s event on the WWHI Facebook page, as it will be this year.

May 5th is Red Dress Day/ National Day of Awareness for MMIWG2S. On that day, there were many events around the country to educate about this epidemic. There were resolutions declared by Oshkosh, Appleton, and other municipalities across the state to declare May 5th as a national day of awareness for MMIWG2S.

On June 12th, 2021, ESTHER held a “MMIWG2S Billboards for Change” event to announce the MMIWG2S billboard that was placed on College Avenue. This billboard project is with ESTHER partners WWHI and NJC.

On July 20th, 2021, ESTHER hosted an ice cream social and screening of the documentary film Dawnland. The film was about the first truth and reconciliation commission which investigated the impact of Maine's child welfare practices on Native American communities including removal of Native children from their families.

The 1st annual Water Celebration and Bridge Walk was held on July 16th, 2021 in Marinette on the Menominee River by members of the Coalition to Save the Menominee River. Many members of ESTHER and folks from this area went up to hear about the impact that the proposed Back Forty mine would have on the river and the ancient homelands of our Menominee friends.

On August 7th, 2021, ESTHER members went up to the Green Bay rally to Stop Lines 3 and 5. This is an issue of great importance for the environment and for the protection of Indigenous communities where these pipelines exist. There is an intersection of resource extraction and MMIWG2S. Human trafficking is a known problem wherever resource extraction occurs near Indigenous communities.

A white pine tree was donated to the community by Menominee Tribal Enterprises, which manages the magnificent Menominee Forest, an hour north of Appleton. On Indigenous People's Day, October 11th, a planting ceremony was held on the Fox River near the Ellen Kort Peace Park. Speakers included Governor Evers, Lieutenant Governor Barnes, Appleton Major Woodford, Kristen Welch, and others. Since the weather wasn’t cooperative, River Tyme Bistro graciously allowed the event to be held inside. The tree was dedicated to MMIWG2S and is located in an area known as “Our Compassion Tree Council” which is just west of the park.

And finally, on October 28th, 2021, ESTHER along with the NJC, held a film screening and discussion of the documentary film Sisters Rising at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Appleton. This film told the story of six Indigenous women and their fight for tribal sovereignty to combat the sexual violence that many Indigenous women experience.

Some folks involved with the events mentioned above, including others from the WWHI, are on the Wisconsin Department of Justice Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force. This state task force is “charged with helping fight the abduction, homicide, violence and trafficking of Indigenous women in Wisconsin.” If you would like additional information about the Task Force’s work, go to this link:

If you would like to keep up with ESTHER’s work on the issues mentioned in this article, check the webpage: Native Peoples | ESTHER

-Rick Kitchen

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