BOISE, Idaho – On Monday October 11th it was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a celebration of the people native to North America.
Tai Simpson, organizer for the Indigenous Idaho Alliance, said it is also a time to mark the challenges Native American communities face.
There are 5,700 unsolved cases of missing or murdered indigenous women across the country. Simpson pointed out cases have not received the media attention Gabby Petito, a white woman who disappeared in Wyoming, has received.
“These indigenous women are not seen equitably as human or worthy of investment when they do go missing and murdered in our communities,” Simpson observed.
Simpson noted it is not only indigenous women who go missing. In Idaho, more men than women are missing, most of whom are between ages 15 and 25, and LGBTQ or two-spirit.
A movement is growing across the country to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. Idaho has celebrated Indigenous People’s Day since 2019.
When it comes to missing indigenous people, Simpson refers to a statement from the Urban Indian Health Institute, which stated individuals go missing in real life, in the data and in the media. She added she would love to see internet sleuths react to missing indigenous people they way they did to Petito.
“The way this online, true-crime community sought to find Gabby and trace her whereabouts and location,” Simpson stated. “How can we keep up that same energy for indigenous folks, when we notice that they go missing?”
Simpson sees cultural rejuvenation as a prevention mechanism. She touted the many benefits of engaging young indigenous communities in artistic expression.
“Whether that’s beadwork, music, weaving, storytelling, dancing, harvesting, gathering,” Simpson outlined. “The more cultural activities they are afforded and exposed to as young people, their risk factors for going missing or murdered significantly decrease.”
Simpson underscored Indigenous People’s Day is about much more than highlighting tragedy.
“We have brought the best of our ancestors into this modern-day society as much as we can in the face of violence, in the face of oppression and in the face of racism,” Simpson stressed. “And that is worth celebrating.”
Photo Caption: A beaded medallion from Shoshone Bannock artist Brodie Sanchez raises awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women. Photo Credit: Brodie Sanchez