ONS Students Organize Awareness EventOn Friday, May 5, Onondaga Nation School (ONS) students participated in the “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” (MMIW). From the Native Hope website:
"Native Americans today face some extraordinary challenges. These statistics from the Urban Indian Health Institute were compiled from a survey of 71 U.S. cities in 2016.The numbers speak for themselves: Native American women make up a significant portion of the missing and murdered cases. Not only is the murder rate ten times higher than the national average for women living on reservations but murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women.”
During a discussion about the day (and the meaning behind it), an idea was brought about by Lela Lyons and some other seventh and eighth graders to advocate to have ONS participate in raising awareness of these tragic figures.
“A discussion occurred during social studies class after a lesson on MMIW, as to what we can do as Indigenous Peoples to help spread awareness of the issue,” said ONS Social Studies Teacher Kayla Cornelius. “They asked: ‘How can we support Indigenous women within our community? How can we actively prevent this from occurring within our own community?’ Lela advocated for us to spread awareness on MMIW day.”
And so, Lela and classmates Kingston, Oliva, Ellie and Haydenn turned this advocacy into action. With the help of Kayla, the group organized an awareness walk during their lunch period, throughout which the students were very proactive in deciding every detail of the walk.
“Ellie reached out to the Onondaga Nation singing group to assist with the social dance" [a public event where performers sing different social dance songs; it's about having fun, giving thanks to the different animals, and lifting spirits of those in attendance] according to Kayla. “Kingston and Haydenn chose to wear the black shirts with red hand* marks, and encouraged the rest of the school to wear red as well. Lela and Olivia decided to have a silent walk to the Longhouse in order to honor and show our respect to all the murdered and missing Indigenous women. Lela met with Ms. Gonyea to discuss the students' ideas, and to set the plan into motion.”
In the end, it was a great show of initiative by students to raise awareness for an under-reported group that is vital to their community.
“The students showed great passion, responsibility and empathy throughout all stages of planning the walk,” said Kayla. “As a teacher, I couldn't be more proud of the students for stepping up to advocate and support this movement Indigenous women.”
To learn more facts about MMIW and how you can help, please click on the link below:
*Red hand marks over the mouth signifies the idea that Indigenous women will no longer be silent about the endemic of missing and murdered relatives.