Activist brings awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people


Joe Forrestdavis

Spiritual activist Gemma Benton on the right sharing a Miwok story and NAHER Clerk November Rain on the left listening in the Center of Inclusion and Belonging on Tuesday. NAHER hosted the event to bring awareness to MMIWG2S.

The Native American Higher Education Resources (NAHER) held a nature walk and storytelling event on Tuesday in honor of Red Dress Weeks of Action.

NAHER provided statistics for attendees about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits (MMIWG2S). In 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaskan Native women and girls with 116 of them getting logged, according to the National Crime Information Center and National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Spiritual activist Gemma Benton led the event and said bringing awareness to students about MMIWG2S was significant to her.

“I love sharing with students, college students especially because you’re at a place where you’re learning so much critical knowledge and you’re learning so much information,” Benton said. “This is kind of a way for you to go deeper into that knowledge to do some critical thinking and consider your significance in the middle of all of it.”

Twenty-nine-year-old photography major and NAHER Clerk November Rain said she hoped the event brought awareness about MMIWG2S to students.

“It’s a dark topic, but it’s one that can’t continue to be avoided,” Rain said. “Share it, talk about it as much as you can. I know it might be upsetting and triggering to some people, but knowing helps prevent it from happening.”

For the storytelling portion of the event, Benton shared a story from the Miwok Tribe about lateral violence.

Rain said she liked how Benton shared a Miwok story since Cosumnes River College is located on Miwok land.

She also said Benton sharing an Indigenous story was helpful for students to understand more about Indigenous culture.

“It’s important for students outside of Native communities to hear these stories because they have no idea what we’re talking about half the time and we can’t put it into their perspective until they hear what we’re trying to express,” Rain said. “So her sharing that with everybody was great.”

Eighteen-year-old anthropology major Alyanna Manzano said she enjoyed the story Benton shared.

“It said a lot about the various structures of violence that impact us as people of color, especially Indigenous people like settler colonial violence, patriarchal violence and how this all ties in together and affects us,” Manzano said. “I’m going to be thinking about this for a good portion of the day.”

In the nature walk, Benton led the attendees to the quad where 100 red ribbons on stakes were displayed. Each ribbon represented approximately 50 MMIWG2S that were not logged in the 2016 report.

Manzano said seeing the display caught her attention.

“That really made an impact on me because it’s one thing to hear the numbers to hear it’s 5,000,” Manzano said. “I feel like that part was very important and the fact that it’s there and the fact that people can see it.”

Benton said she hoped students walked away from the event knowing how important they can be to make a difference.

“Never doubt your ability to impact change,” Benton said.