Rural Montana had already lost too many Native women. Then Selena disappeared.

Jackie Big Hair slept in her car for days, waking every few hours to fire up the engine and gaze at the frozen highway rest stop where her 16-year-old daughter had been reported missing.

“I just have to be here,” Ms. Big Hair, 50, said, watching semis lumber across the plains. “I don’t know where else to go.”

That was her vigil, along with searches in Billings about 30 miles away, three weeks after her youngest child, Selena Not Afraid, was reported missing from a barren stretch of Interstate 90 in a southern Montana county where 65 percent of the population is Native American. Law enforcement officials said a van carrying Selena home the day after a New Year’s party in Billings had pulled into the rest stop after breaking down, and then reportedly started up again and driven away without her. Nobody had heard from her since.

Read more at The New York Times. 

4 in 5 black girls face trauma in Arkansas

According to a report from Delta Community Based Services, 56% of children in Arkansas experience some form of trauma before reaching adulthood. Some recover, but some inevitably experience negative effects well into adulthood.

Learn more at KHTV, CBS Arkansas. 


For These Native American Girls, Coding Became the Language to Discuss Mental Health

Kindra Locklear was tuned in to CNN one day last fall when she came across a segment about a nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in technology by teaching young girls to code. It struck a chord.

Locklear works in the information technology department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and sees first-hand how women are underrepresented in the field. An effort to bring more females into the field, she thought, might do her own community some good.

UNC Pembroke, located in a small, rural town in south-central North Carolina, was founded as a school for American Indians, and today still serves and employs many members of the Lumbee Tribe, of which Locklear is a member.

As a Lumbee woman, and a woman in tech living in a rural area, Locklear kept thinking about the nonprofit she saw on TV—Girls Who Code—and wondering if she could establish a chapter in Pembroke.

Read more at The Huffington Post. 

Congress tackles crisis of missing and murdered Native American women

Although May 5 is nationally considered a day for celebration, in many tribal communities, it is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native American Women. The date commemorates the birthday of Hanna Harris, a young mother and member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, who was reported missing in July 2013 and found murdered a few days later.

Hanna’s story is emblematic of the struggle plaguing tribal communities and indigenous women living in cities. Native American women face extremely high rates of violence, an epidemic which is marked by the lack of data around the number of women who go missing or are murdered in and outside of reservations.

Over 5,700 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing as of 2016, according to the National Crime Information Center, but only 116 of those cases were logged with the Department of Justice. Eighty-four percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice. A 2008 study found that women in some tribal communities are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average.

Read more at CBS

What’s Happening at Standing Rock, from 2 Native American Girls

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a project proposed in 2014 that would cary 450,000 barrels of crude oil every day from North Dakota’s oil field 1,134 miles underground to Illinois, so it can be converted into usable fuel. The project, FYI, is estimated to cost a whopping $3.8 billion. In theory, it would make the entire oil-to-fuel process safer, because it wouldn’t be carried by trains. Obviously, if a train derails while carrying oil…it explodes.

But that’s just in theory. A pipeline would not be a foolproof system for protecting the environment from oil spills, for one. And for two, there’s a problem that Big Oil and the government weren’t anticipating: the protectors of the sacred land near Lake Oahe.

In case you haven’t heard the news, members of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes have been PROTECTING — not protesting — the construction of this pipeline. It is the first time in recent history that so many Native American nations have stood together in solidarity against the government.

For the next installment in our #AskaNativeAmericanGirl series, we invited two young women from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe — Wacantkiya Mani and Wanbli Waunsila — to explain what their lives are like since the Pipeline’s construction began.

There are two crucial things for you to understand: The first is that the pipeline crosses Lake Oahe, which is their main source of drinking water. If an oil leak were to happen (and many outlets have reported that this isn’t a scenario of “if” so much as it is a scenario of “when”), it could contaminate their drinking water, putting their health and families at risk. And if you need a primer on what happens when a water supply gets contaminated, look no farther than Flint, Michigan…a community that is still without clean drinking water.

Second, the pipeline will run through an area that they consider sacred — it’s where their ancestors are buried. Construction will literally rip up the remains of their ancestors, and defile a ground they prayed on

Watch the video and read the full article in Teen Vogue.

Natalie A. Collier speaking

Blurred Focus: The State of Black Women in the Rural South

Natalie A. Collier, Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Social & Economic Justice

Presentation Description: In a world that has its spotlight—for better and worse—shone brightly on boys and young men of color, their mothers, sisters and others who love them are often quietly working, overshadowed. Dreams for boys and girls of color are already typically far too small. For many southern, rural black women while coping with the trauma of poverty, its spheres and effects that have become second nature, they must also deal with their own issues and displaced dreams for not only their sons but their daughters and selves. The focus and conversation on uplift and reconnection to personal and community power cannot be either/or; it must be both/and. Continuing along this path of either/or, we systemically and grievously rob women of color of opportunities to exercise their right to dream for themselves and their children.

Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South

In the rural South, more than 1 in 4 children and nearly as many women live in poverty. When race and ethnicity are taken into consideration, the poverty rate is more than double for African-Americans and Latinos compared to their white counterparts.

For women and children living in the rural South, poverty is the result of unequal social, political and economic conditions— failing school systems, high levels of unemployment, poor public infrastructure and housing, and the lack of access to quality healthcare—that have persisted over many decades.

This report, Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South, by the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative, aims to shed light on the most significant and persistent barriers to success, opportunity, and economic security for lower-income women and families in the rural South. It also provides an in-depth analysis of the economic security, health, and overall wellbeing of women living in nine counties across the rural South in the states of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.