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New Billboards Highlight Issue Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Global Indigenous Council

If you're driving I-25 in Casper, watch for a new billboard educating the public about the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The billboard depicts a Native woman with a red handprint across her face, and says 5,712 Native women were murdered or went missing in 2016 in the U.S. It's part of a campaign, organized by the Global Indigenous Council in partnership with Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, to pass Savannah's Act that would provide federal assistance to better respond to the crisis.

Northern Arapaho tribal member Lynette Grey Bull is the director of Not Our Native Daughters, an advocacy group also working on the billboards. She said the idea is to convey that the problem is not happening somewhere else, but right here in Wyoming.

"I mean, just yesterday I was handed yet another name, another case of a girl who's been missing for three years," said Grey Bull. "The more I continue to do this work, the more people in the community identify that I'm working on this, the more names of murdered and missing people I'm getting from the Wind River community."

Grey Bull said there's a lot behind that symbolism of the handprint.

"That red handprint signifies that not only are we in mourning but we're also not going to be silent any longer," she said. "Also, red signifies war and especially in Northern Plains tribes, and so the red paint …signifies not only an outcry but an act of war."

Greybull said another billboard will go up soon in Riverton and the public will be invited to an unveiling event. They're also posted in seven other states including Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Montana.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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