BEMIDJI -- The freezing cold can’t stop the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s walk, but it will delay it a bit.
The fifth annual walk was scheduled to be held this Sunday Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day -- but cold, not COVID -- has the full program on hold. The march is meant to bring attention to the disproportionate amount of violence that is perpetrated against Indigenous women.
Despite the frigid temps, organizers will still stand at Paul Bunyan Park from noon to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday with painted signs and red dresses to raise awareness, and invite anyone who can safely participate to join them.
However, other events commemorating and bringing awareness to the MMIW issues will also go on online.
Local MMIW movement coordinator Tamika-Jo Andy said the group of six organizers who have put on the walk for the last five years will lead a series of webinars during the preceding week, hoping to fill in the gap usually filled with speakers and community discussion during the walk event.
Andy also called for allies to join in and show their support around the Bemidji area.
“If business owners or people that just want to support the MMIW and raise awareness for it, they could hang a red dress in their window, in their yard, by their doorframes, so the community can see that they support MMIW and they’re trying to understand what it is and how Bemidji is affected,” she said. “It’s really important to have allies in the Bemidji community showing support to this issue, because we all have a role to play in making this a safer place to live for everybody.”
She encouraged area businesses to show solidarity with the MMIW movement by hanging a red dress or other red article of clothing in their window.
“Over the years I would say it’s been growing,” Andy said of the local MMIW movement. “This is a conversation that needs to happen in Bemidji, because Bemidji is surrounded by three tribes, and we need to inform the Bemidji community, not just Native Americans, we need the whole community.”
Andy said a full MMIW walk is in the works for May, to align with May 5, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.
Virtual panel schedule
Virtual panel discussions will be led by local MMIW organizers over Zoom and will be streamed live on the group’s Facebook page. The 218 MMIW Facebook page was recently established as a place to share updates and raise awareness as well as resources for people who might be struggling with domestic violence.
Three webinars will be held throughout the week from 6 to 7 p.m. each night.
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, the webinar will focus on the connection between land and body. “Community members are going to be talking about how environmental issues affect MMIW and how it can bring more violence to communities,” Andy said of Tuesday’s event.
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, the webinar will center around the shared experiences of family and friends of missing and murdered women. On Thursday, Feb. 11, the webinar will feature some MMIW legislative policy updates and representatives from the statewide MMIW Taskforce.