The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs will raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women next week.
The program and other Lincoln community groups are hosting a series of free events for UNL students and the public from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8 to discuss and bring light to the prevalence of violence against native women.
In prior years, Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs would host events focussed on research regarding human rights and trafficking, according to Sryiyani Tidball, a professor in the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. But, the event changed this year after several native women from the community approached Tidball with concerns about violence against native women in Nebraska.
Tidball said she asked the department if they could focus the 2019 event specifically on violence within the native population. November is Native American Heritage Month, so this seemed like a logical time to hold the event, according to Tidball. This is also the first year the event is free.
“Until this year, we have always had to charge students, but this year we were able to get enough sponsors that nobody has to pay anything,” Tidball said. “They can just come and learn.”
The primary speaker is Sarah Deer, a professor at the University of Kansas and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. Deer, a practicing attorney and advocate against violence against native women, will speak on how to address the injustices against native women at the Nebraska Union on Friday, Nov. 1 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Tidball said she has followed Deer’s advocacy and research over the past several years and is excited to have her at UNL to lecture.
“Last time, we brought her research partner who was non-native, but that has really opened a lot of eyes [to native women's issues],” Tidball said.
Another event going on during the week is Dish It Up, a discussion hosted by the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange where students can discuss and learn about how violence against native people impacts the UNL community from native students.
Dish It Up is a recurring event, but this particular session is focused specifically on violence against native people. Students can interact with students who have more knowledge about this issue at the event, according to Tidball. Dish It Up will take place on Nov. 5 from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m in the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center Unity Room. There will also be free pizza and free t-shirts.
“The point of the Dish It Up event is to highlight the crimes against native women on and around reservations.” said senior journalism major and UNITE Social Outreach Chair Seth Marshall. “It is not just an isolated thing. Many laws don’t protect native women. We hope that this talk would give a better understanding to what Native Americans go through.”
At all of the events throughout the week, Tidball said she will bring red dresses covered with black handprints made by a local native women whose daughter was murdered.
“The story is that when women get violated, who are native, when they go to an event they will wear a red dress or shirt to share their pain that they were violated,” Tidball said. “And so that’s why we decided to use red dresses as part of our work.”
A panel of legal experts will explain how the legal and criminal justice system can address violence against Native women. The legal panel, moderated by Anna Shavers, the interim dean of the Nebraska College of Law, will include Col. John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, and other experts. The panel will take place on Thursday, Nov. 7 at noon at the Nebraska College of Law.
A community panel made up of native experts will discuss how to mobilize the Lincoln and UNL communities to address violence and discrimination against native people on Friday, Nov. 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Nebraska Union.
Both of the panels are aimed at giving people concrete information about the logistics on how violence against Native American women can be addressed and how the community can move toward a solution, according to Tidball.
Tidball said she hopes students who attend the events will become more aware of native issues and feel motivated to advocate against violence on native women and human rights in general.
“I believe that [students] will be the change that we want to see and talk about but haven’t seen [change] because enough people are not aware,” Tidball said. “I have already had so many of my students go on to be human rights lawyers, social workers and investigative reporters. I am just thrilled.”