Poetry, Songs, And Prayers Mark MMIW Event In Springfield

May 6, 2021

Last night, about 50 people gathered in Springfield near the Willamette River to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women.  

University of Oregon student and Indigenous activist Violet Johnson reads a poem under one of several trees adorned with red dresses Wednesday night.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC


Poetry reader: “In the dark, in the bitter wind…listen to a dream…”

Members of illioo Native Theatre and the University of Oregon’s Indigenous Womxn’s Wellness Group read poetry, under trees adorned with red dresses.

Red dresses and other garments were hung from trees to symbolize thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women across North America.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Co-organizer Marta Clifford explained the symbolism.

“…to show a garment that’s empty, because the women are missing. In many Indigenous cultures, the only color that the spirits can see is red…hoping that they can see the red garments we put out in their honor.” 

Another organizer, Lori Tapahanso, said red garments are also visually striking.

“Creating visibility for the erasure of an entire generation of women, young girls, and our brothers that’ve gone missing.” 

Violet Johnson of the Indigenous Womxn’s Wellness Group of the UO said she was happy with the turnout. 

“It’s really important that all of us are coming together to have meaningful conversations about it, and not just talking about it in the theoretical sense as something that’s happening far away or it’s an issue of the past," Johnson told KLCC. 

(From L to R:) Theresa May, Marta Clifford, and Lori Tapahanso of illioo Native Theatre helped coordinate the night of poetry and ceremonial tributes to missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

"But the issue of violence against native women and Two Spirit people are happening all around us.  It’s happening in Oregon, and it’s happening in our urban centers, and on reservations.”

Most members of the audience wore red for the occasion, and were also welcomed to share thoughts and stories during the event.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Violence against Native American women has been a scourge for generations.  The CDC says half of Indigenous women are victims of sexual or physical violence, or stalking. 

Recent legislation in Oregon directed state police to learn more about how to improve investigating such cases. 

An honor song closed the evening, as people prayed for the roughly 5,700 missing and murdered Indigenous women across North America.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.