Experts, activists, community members and students are gathering to raise awareness of and find solutions for the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Nebraska.
The 2019 Human Trafficking and Migration Initiative is hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, Nebraska’s urban areas have the eighth-highest number of unsolved cases of missing indigenous women in the country, with Omaha having the third-highest number of cases of any city.
The week of events will begin with a keynote address by Sarah Deer, a leading expert on violence against Native women, at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Nebraska Union Auditorium. Deer is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and a MacArthur Fellow. Her research and advocacy focus on the intersection of federal Indian law and victim’s rights, and this perspective will inform her Nov. 1 remarks. The address will be followed by a reception in the Heritage Room at 8:30 p.m.
On Nov. 5, the initiative, in partnership with the University of Nebraska InterTribal Exchange, will hold a Dish It Up conversation on the experiences of the university’s Native students. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Unity Room of the Gaughan Multicultural Center, students will have the chance to speak about what it’s like to be a Native student at the university and how violence against Native people impacts the campus community. There will be free pizza and T-shirts.
From Nov. 5-7, the International Quilt Museum will host an exhibition of Native quilts. The museum will also host a storytelling session featuring Native women from 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 7.
The University of Nebraska College of Law, in collaboration with the initiative, will host a panel of experts on legal issues surrounding missing and murdered indigenous women at noon Nov. 7. Interim Dean Anna Shavers will moderate the discussion, and three out of four panelists are Native women. The panelists are Kirby Williams, domestic violence outreach coordinator at Legal Aid of Nebraska; Judy Gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs; Leonika Charging, attorney at Bigfire Law Firm; and Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol.
The events will end with a panel discussion of community experts from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Nebraska Union Auditorium. The panel will consist entirely of Native women. Erin Poor, education and community engagement director at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, will moderate. Panelists include Marissa Cummings, director of Native Student Services at the University of South Dakota; Margaret Huettl, associate professor of history and ethnic studies at Nebraska; Corinne Oestrich, founder of the Buffalo Project; and Colette Yellow Robe, assistant director for non-cognitive learning and leadership at Nebraska. The panel will be followed by a reception at 8:30 p.m.
The Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs is an interdisciplinary academic program dedicated to human rights research, education and community outreach. Learn more.