Local organization to launch billboard campaign addressing violence against Indigenous women

Mmiw

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition, in partnership with the Red Skirt Society, a local Indigenous women’s organization, will launch billboards in a campaign on Sunday, July 18, to bring awareness to the violence against Indigenous peoples in the region.

Nationally, homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native Americans 10-to-24 years old. The coalition said that out of the 103 missing Native Americans identified by the Washington State Patrol as of April this year, 52 of those cases are from eastern Washington. In Spokane, they said 5 of the 9 cases are children between the ages of 14 and 17.

Artist Lexi Hanway, a member of Colville Confederated Tribes and descendant of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, brought together 10 Indigenous women from the region to downtown Spokane to participate in a photography project she organized to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

“I put them in a setting where people all around are living their happy lives, yet Native women have this issue going on that is so overlooked that we feel drowned out by society,” Hanway said.

The coalition said the photos were shared on social media and when local organizers were discussing safe outreach alternatives during COVID-19, the possibility of a billboard campaign was brought up. Organizers then reached out to Hanway to work together and continue efforts to bring awareness.

“It takes a village to raise a child, but it will take an entire country to stop Native American women from being sex trafficked and murdered,” Hanway said, calling for collaboration through her project.

“Projects like this increase awareness and we want to continue to build relationships and find resources to support the families in our own community who have been impacted by violence. One day a year is not enough to gather and speak about this issue, it is ongoing and continues to impact our most vulnerable, our women and children,” said Twa-le Swan, a member of the Red Skirt Society. “We are grandmothers, mothers, aunties and we will work together for as long as it takes to ensure our young men and women and children are safe and the barriers are reduced so that agencies that are in place to protect us are doing just that.”

The billboard on Mission and Greene will be revealed at 10 a.m. on Sunday.