May 5th is a day of remembrance for Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. This includes LGBTQ, non-binary, and Two Spirit relatives. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women. While MMIW has become a trend or worse labeled an epidemic, there is nothing new about the murder, rape, and torture of Indigenous women. This has been happening since 1492, when Europeans first introduced capitalism, murderous heteropatriarchy, and the class system—all foreign institutions to these lands.
This isn’t violence confined to reservations in geographically isolated rural areas. This violence is intensified in bordertowns, the white dominated settlements that ring Indian reservations—in other words, all of the United States. Nearly four of every five Native people live off-reservation and are targeted by non-Native police and settlers for violence. More than half the cases of sexual violence against Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men. Police kill Native women at higher rates than other groups of women. Cops are part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution to MMIW, they are perpetrators in our communities that must be banished. And we must stand with our relatives murdered by police, such Sarah Lee Circle Bear and Loreal Tsinigine. Why can’t politicians say their names?
But this violence isn’t without reason or just misogyny for misogyny’s sake. Settlers want land. To get that land they seek to eliminate the political authority of Indigenous women, non-binary, Two Spirit and queer people—in other words, anything that represents an alternative political order to homicidal heteropatriarchy has to be destroyed. And like a contagious disease, wherever patriarchs colonize, they leave patriarchs in their wake.
We must also remember that the hashtag MMIW was first popularized by First Nations women who challenged the man camps that arose around the extractive industries. That aspect has not translated so well in the so-called United States. In places like New Mexico, which ranks high in MMIW cases, political elites, including our own Native leaders, refuse to make the connections between the oil and gas boom and the intensification of violence against Indigenous women. Why? Because this affects their bottom line—profit. Settlers have killed, raped, and tortured Native women who stand in the way of their profits. We should give no quarter to the political elite who normalize and erase the violence extractive capitalism brings to our communities. For MMIW to end, for our Native women to live, capitalism must die.