American Indian Academy of Denver students rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
May 5 marked the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The date comes with Indigenous-led efforts to raise public awareness around high rates of violence committed against Indigenous women and girls, and the lack of prosecution, or even adequate investigation, of the crimes.
To mark the day, a rally took place last Friday on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol.
Raven Payment of the Colorado MMIW Task Force was one of the speakers.
Payment told the crowd that when they began their work two years ago, there were only 13 cases listed in the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's database that were identified as Indigenous.
She said that in the last two years they have identified 84 additional cases.
"These are missing people but a vast majority are unsolved homicides. 64% of unsolved homicides of Native people in Colorado reside within the Denver Police Department's jurisdiction. 98% lie within jurisdictions along the Front Range. Only three reside within Tribal communities. So it's these urban metro areas that are really committing the most violence against our people," she said.
Late last year the Colorado Bureau of Investigation launched its first-ever Missing Indigenous Person Alert system.
Payment said Colorado is now one of only two states in the country to have one.
"It doesn't matter how old you are, it doesn't matter what your race is, what your gender binary is. It just matters that you're Indigenous. And this alert system goes out to all law enforcement and all media and anyone who signs up to subscribe to the email list," said Payment.
Friday's rally at the Capitol was organized by students from the American Indian Academy of Denver, a three-year old public school serving grades 6-11.
The school's founder Terri Bissonette said the rally was the students' idea following research they have done about murdered and missing Indigenous people.
"Our students became so passionate and so engaged with the research and all the things they were finding out that they wanted to come out to a public square basically and raise awareness about this issue," she said.
The American Indian Academy of Denver is one of a handful of Denver public schools slated for closure at the end of this school year.
The school opened just before the COVID pandemic and has struggled to maintain a level of enrollment high enough to convince the school board to keep it open.
This story from KGNU was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations including KDNK in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.