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Dozens attend Sioux Falls vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous people

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Jackie Hendry
/
A crowd gathers to remember missing and murdered Indigenous people in downtown Sioux Falls on May 5, 2022.

May fifth is a national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people. South Dakota Urban Indian Health hosted a candlelight vigil in downtown Sioux Falls, where dozens gathered in solidarity with missing, murdered, and mourning relatives.

There is no dedicated database to track cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people, but various advocacy groups estimate there are thousands of unsolved cases across the country. Many can be linked to human trafficking and domestic abuse.

In downtown Sioux Falls, dozens lined the sidewalk outside South Dakota Urban Indian Health. Posters taped in the windows commemorated missing relatives, and some attendees shared stories of managing loss.

Michaela Sieber is the CEO of South Dakota Urban Indian Health. She says the organization is uniquely positioned to help survivors and relatives year-round.

"We do provide health services, but we provide so much more. We're case-managing people if they're coming in and disclosing something to us, we're doing education and awareness. We were just awarded a grant on domestic violence prevention, which will play a really big role in our space in our community. And we're going to hold space for people to come and heal through our groups and what we do."

Serene Thin Elk is the behavioral health director at South Dakota Urban Indian Health. She explains the effects of intergenerational trauma in Native communities often impact Native women.

"We see all the women that are missing and murdered, all the sexual assaults—those are things that have largely gone undocumented and were even a normal part through colonization, to do that to our women. And so now we're needing to shift the whole paradigm of how we view our women and look at us as sacred. And not only for non-Native people, but for our own women, ourself, to view and remember how sacred we are even through the things that have happened to us."

Thin Elk says grief can be isolating, but events like these help demonstrate that no one has to face tragedy alone.