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Poetry, Songs, And Prayers Mark MMIW Event In Springfield

Brian Bull

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


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.

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

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.” 

illioo co-founder, 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. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
(From L to R:) Theresa May, Marta Clifford, and Lori Tapahanso of illioo Native Theatre.

"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.”

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

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. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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