The epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) throughout the USA and Canada is getting more international attention thanks to Whoopi Goldberg.
Goldberg wore a gifted beaded jingle dancer medallion, whose dress is red to represent MMIWG, on her daytime talk show The View on Monday.
This sparked conversation on the show about the crisis.
Indigenous women and girls have been going missing for decades along a stretch of highway in British Columbia called the "Highway of Tears." The highway is, by far, not the only place where kidnappings and murders occur, but the sheer number of Indigenous people who have gone missing in that area is staggering.
While the officially recognized number of cases along the highway is 18, indigenous organizations estimate that number to be much higher—more than 40.
Over 40 indigenous women and girls missing or murdered along one stretch of highway in British Columbia since 1970.
But thousands more have disappeared throughout the US and Canada in that same time.
Federal statistics in the USA show 84% of Indigenous women will be assaulted in their lifetimes. 75% of those assaults will be perpetrated by non-Indigenous people—mostly White males. Most of the crimes will never be solved and many will never be investigated. Of those solved, the attacker will most often receive a suspended or minimum sentence.
According to experts, the lack of repercussions for assaulting or even murdering Indigenous women makes them targets. A President who makes a racial slur out of an Indigenous woman's name to attack a political rival and an NFL team with a racial slur for a name only contributes further to the attitude that Native peoples are "less than" their counterparts. This cultural disregard for Native people creates a cycle of violence that Indigenous communities cannot break on their own.
Whoopi brought attention to those who have been taken or murdered and called for all women to support each other.
"Women have to come together and say 'None of us should be going missing.' There has to be a way for all of us to do this better and look out for each other."
Supporting Missing Indigenous Women | The View youtu.be
Goldberg was gifted the medallion she wore on The View by Connie Greyeyes who bought it from SagKeeng First Nation beader Mish Daniels. Greyeyes met Goldberg while at a conference in Vancouver, Canada. Whoopi was attending a different conference at the same hotel and happened to cross paths with Greyeyes.
The two spoke at length about Goldberg's desire to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG in the US) and about how much she admired Greyeyes' medallion.
This sparked an idea for Greyeyes.
"[Goldberg] said, 'It's not really being talked about, and it needs to be.' I wasn't going to wear that medallion that day. It didn't go with what I was wearing, and I looked at her and I just thought, 'I'm meant to give her something for sharing that with me, and for being so gracious'."
"I am Ojibway, and in our culture and belief system, when somebody admires something of yours like that, it's protocol to give it away."
Greyeyes called Daniels whose very first dancer medallion was made to resemble her niece who is a traditional dancer.
Daniels' told CBC News: The National:
"Connie messaged me right away after and said, 'Oh Mish, I need a new good medallion, I gifted my medallion to Whoopi!'"
Daniels has been selling her medallions at powwows and other get-togethers since her first one she made for her niece. But she never expected to see one of her pieces on live television around the neck of someone like Whoopi.
"I never thought in a million years they would get to Whoopi Goldberg."
Not just once but twice!
Daniels has made many different and beautiful versions of the dancer medallion.
It's no wonder she has received so many new orders since Whoopi wore hers on The View to bring awareness to MMIWG.
Daniels spoke with CBC News: The National about her excitement and the experience of seeing her beadwork on The View.
Indigenous activists have been trying to bring attention to this epidemic for decades and, thanks to their tireless efforts, the issue is finally getting real attention.
Boosts from stars like Whoopi go a long way in helping to make sure that people know what a huge issue this really is across the USA and Canada. In Canada, the federal government has set up several commissions to address and resolve the issue of violence against and lack of justice for Indigenous women. In the United States, Representative Deb Haaland called on the USA to do the same.
Hopefully the cycle of violence Indigenous women and girls face in staggering numbers will finally be broken.