Both events were hosted by the Center of Southwest Studies, the Sexual Assault Services Organization and Fort Lewis College Title IX.
Sing Our Rivers Red earring exhibit
The idea for the earring exhibit began in Canada, with five exhibits each with 1,000 to 2,000 earrings each representing a single indigenous woman who had gone missing or had been murdered on the Highway of Tears, Kelsey Lansing, the cultural outreach coordinator for SASO said.
The Highway of Tears is a well known place for many indigenous people to go missing because of dense forests and difficulty doing searches in that area, Lansing saiid.
Having studied violence against native women for her senior seminar as an undergraduate, Lansing wanted to bring the exhibit to Fort Lewis College to bring awareness and education on the issue in the United States.
The exhibit showcased a dress donated by cousins of Nicole Leigh Redhorse, a Navajo woman who was murdered at the Spanish Trails Hotel in 2007, Lansing said.
The dress stood alongside a platform of earrings that have been donated or created at workshops at FLC.
There were more red dresses hanging outside of CSWS, the red representing the blood that has been spilled for indigenous people who have been murdered or victims of assault, Lansing said.
“It is a mourning symbol,” she said. “A woman is wailing for those who have passed to the point where she cannot speak anymore.”
The exhibit and symposium represented the power and resilience of indigenous women, Lansing said.
The earring exhibit was accompanied by a prayer from Silverton House Whitehorse, a Ute Mountain Ute tribal member; songs acknowledging the power of women and a candlelight vigil to remember the women who have been lost.
The prayer and sage grass ceremony is used to cleanse the air, give hope and soothe and comfort in times that are dark, Whitehorse said.
The songs are meant to bring recognition to the women and sisters, Noah Shadlow, one of the drummers said as he introduced their first song.
“War mother songs are sung for our women, sung for the ones who are overseas or are at war and battle, for the mothers who have to stay back home and wonder,” Paige Burgess, another drummer said.
The band concluded with their final song.
“The songs are here to comfort us in those times,” Burgess said. “As Native People, we have been through a lot, and a lot of times the only thing we can rely on are our own songs and prayers.”
Violence Against Native Women symposium
The symposium followed the exihibit on Saturday, with two speakers from the Southern Ute Tribe, Shelly L Thompson and Diane Millich; two coordinators with Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico, Shannon Hoshnic and Rachel Reed; and a delegate from the Navajo Naiton Council, Amber Kanazbah Crotty.
The lyceum was filled with people, the majority women leaders of a variety of organizations, eager to learn and bring awareness around the four corners area.
The speakers discussed the importance of healing from historical trauma and brought education and awareness on sexual assualt and human trafficking.
“Forgiveness is letting go of the power and desire to punish,” Thompson said, explaining the importance of forgiveness plays in healing from historical trauma.
Diane Millich, a Southern Ute tribal member, also shared her experience of domestic violence on the reservation to express the importance of support services and legislation for women.