BEMIDJI-More than 100 people, either dressed in red or carrying crimson signs, marched through Bemidji on Thursday to show solidarity for missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families.
The local march was just one of several similar events taking place on an international scale. In both the United States and Canada, activists took to the streets to advocate for Native American women who've been disproportionately targeted for violence.
"Today is about love and remembering our loved ones, and that's one of the reasons we wear red, to signify that love," said Bemidji event co-organizer Audrianna Goodwin.
This is the third year of the Bemidji event, and Goodwin said this year's march had higher numbers than 2018. Goodwin said the event was initially launched a few years ago following several recent cases of local Native Americans who've gone missing or were murdered.
The Bemidji area is just one of many regions across the state and the country that has seen its share of violence against American Indian women. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, Minnesota is one of 10 states with the most missing and Indigenous women cases.
The report published by the UIHI found the earliest case documented in 1943 and two thirds of the cases occurred between 2010 and 2018.
In the past several years, the Bemidji area has also experienced several high-profile cases involving Native American women who were murdered. In 2015, both 35-year-old Krista Marie Fisherman and Rose Downwind, both of Redby were killed in domestic violence cases.
The data compiled in the report also found the following cases in nearby regional cities:
• In Duluth, one missing person case and three murders were recorded.
• In Minneapolis, two missing cases and seven murders were recorded.
• In St. Paul there were four missing cases and three murders found.
• In Milwaukee, there was one missing case and two murders.
• In Fargo, there were two murder cases found.
Another study, coming from the U.S. Department of Justice, found one in three Native women report having been raped in their lifetime.
"It affects us here, too. That's another reason we wanted to create a space for people to come and show that we care," Goodwin said. "We matter, Indigenous people matter."
Following the march, which went from the Northwest Indian Community Development Center to the BSU campus, participants gathered in the Hobson Memorial Union for songs and a healing dance.