‘It’s a real epidemic across the U.S.’: Community gathers to remember murdered and missing Indigenous women

SPOKANE, Wash. — May 5 is the Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native Americans ages 10-24. It’s a national epidemic, but in Spokane, the community’s coming together to fight for change.

“Native American people, Indigenous people, have suffered so much,” said Twa-le Swan, who helped organize a vigil and march in downtown Spokane. “It’s definitely time that more people get on board for just our basic human rights to survive.”

Jenny Slagle knows the pain of losing loved ones. Two of her sisters, Angela and Felicia, were murdered in Washington. Now, she’s working to spread awareness and keep their stories alive.

“They’re not just statistics within this epidemic, but these are real people. ” Slagle said. “Our family is still struggling with the loss.”

While this is a nationwide problem, Washington has the 2nd most open cases for missing Native women in the country. Swan says it’s important to continue showcasing the issue in order for people to rally for change.

“For us, it is about continuing to bring that to the forefront at every chance we get,” Swan said.

“It’s a real epidemic across the U.S. and specifically in Washington,” Slagle said.

Near City Hall, members of the community gathered to remember and pay respects for the lives lost. The participants then walked over to the Riverfront Pavilion for a candlelight vigil.

The Pavilion will illuminate red and purple lights tonight to spread awareness around the cause. Red stands for power and remembrance, and the color purple was added this year because Kamiah Bird, a Spokane Tribal member, was murdered in Las Vegas last year.