Thoz Womenz Drum
On August 31st, five members of Thoz Womenz Drum participated in a public service announcement (PSA) video in support of two bills currently under consideration in Congress: Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act. The public service announcement was filmed at the annual Native Women’s Drum Retreat at the University of California Berkeley Forestry Camp in Meadow Valley, California.
Many Americans are not familiar with the issues regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women, but a report from the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, provides statistics that show the need for new legislation. According to the Urban Indian Health Institute report,
“The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women and that rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher than the national average.”
Savanna’s Act would require mandatory annual reporting to Congress on known statistics relating to missing and murdered Indians in the United States. The act was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind from North Dakota, who was murdered in 2017. Her baby was cut from her womb and survived. Savanna was 22-years-old.
The Not Invisible Act, introduced by senators on the Indian American Congregational Committee, calls for the federal government to provide quicker response time to killing, kidnapping and trafficking of Native American women.
Also included in the filming was an installment of the REDress Project. Jaime Black, a Metis artist from Winnipeg, Canada, began The REDress Project almost ten years ago. The purpose was to collect red dresses from the community and hang them as a visual reminder of the Indigenous women who are missing or have been murdered.
Ann Sanchez, Ft. Bidwell Paiute, collected and installed the red dresses for the gallery, and Leah Go Forth, Aniyvwiya, gathered research and statistics for the project.
Prior to filming the public service announcement, Dr. April Lea Go Forth, Director of RISE, drum keeper of Thoz Womenz Drum and the developer and vision of the public service announcement, spoke to the retreat participants about the statistics of missing and murdered Native women in the United States. Go Forth’s hope was for the stats to 'wake us up' to choices, and not continue as victims, but instead, give that instance of pause to make good choices. It was shocking to learn that very few at the retreat were aware of the enormity of the issue.
Magdalena Steele, Chiricahua Apache/Chicana, delivered a message to Native girls about our own instincts that can feel imminent danger. Just as our Creator instills that awareness in wildlife, it exists within us to be considered for our own safe choices.
The women and youth who attended the drum retreat were then filmed as they walked through the REDress gallery. Go Forth stated later, “Women spoke to me afterwards, saying how heavy the gallery was after hearing the tragic statistics. Two cried telling of missing women and one woman did not come as she was in the hospital, beaten by her husband.”
Congresswoman Debra Anne Haaland, an American Indian lawyer serving as the U.S. Representative from New Mexico, will describe the need for the law.
The public service announcement was filmed by Jack Kohler, a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Kohler is the Executive Producer of the non-Profit Media Organization 'On Native Ground.' He is also the Media Coordinator and Media instructor for the United Auburn Indian Community. The public service announcement will be released this fall.
The film soundtrack was recorded and produced by Rich Ayers, Cherokee, River City Recording. Ayers has performed with and co-produced works with Doobie Brother's, Jefferson Starship, Neil Young, and many more reputable people in the music industry. Ayres is a seasoned engineer with a wealth of experience in all types of music.
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