‘Love Is the Movement’: A Valentine’s Day Memorial March for the Missing and Murdered Native Women

Silhouettes telling the stories of missing and murdered Native women were included in a display coordinated by the "Sing Our Rivers Red" project on Valentine's Day 2016 in Fargo, North Dakota. Jolene Yazzie
Undaunted by snowy and windy weather, marchers carried silhouettes symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States. Jolene Yazzie
Many marches took place in cities throughout the United States and Canada to honor missing, murdered, and assaulted Indigenous women. Marchers in Fargo walked a path along the Red River to call attention to the violence that takes place on its banks both in the United States and in Canada. Jolene Yazzie
Marchers offered tobacco to the Red River to honor and memorialize missing, murdered, and assaulted Indigenous women. Tobacco is considered sacred by many tribes and is offered to carry prayers to the Creator. Elders conducted a ceremony under the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Fargo, the site of several known sexual assaults of Native women. Jolene Yazzie
Supporters carried signs calling attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the United States and Canada. Advocates say that while Canada has launched an inquiry about the alarming estimates of First Nations women killed or missing, the United States has dedicated few resources to investigating violence against Native women. Jolene Yazzie
The silhouettes were named after missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including Rita Burnette, age 14, who "was found in a wooded area near Nay Tah Waush.” Burnette's cousin, Kevin Brown Jr., pleaded guilty in court, "stating he beat Rita Burnette with his fists until she was unconscious and then left her,” according to news reports. Jolene Yazzie
The Sing Our Rivers Red exhibition included photos and letters from friends and families of the missing and murdered. Jolene Yazzie
Supporters paused in prayer on the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Red River in Fargo, North Dakota. The bodies of several Indigenous women have been pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg, Canada, north of Fargo. Jolene Yazzie

As journalist Mary Pember reported for Rewire, “Valentine’s Day has become the official day for Native women to recognize and memorialize the missing and murdered women and girls whom they believe government leaders in the United States and Canada too often ignore.” Here are several of Navajo artist Jolene Yazzie’s photos from the event.