The SLC Garden will become a place to honor missing and murdered indigenous people – Advice Eating

In a garden built for healing, members of several Utah Native American communities gathered to eat Navajo tacos, pray, drum and dance together — all in memory of missing or killed people, including Indigenous children living in state boarding schools died.

Thursday night’s National Awareness Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People gathering was held at Carry the Water, an Indigenous healing garden at 1459 S. 1000 West in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City. The garden sits in the middle of three open plots where volunteers have spent the spring clearing space, digging beds and preparing to plant corn and herbs.

Thursday’s event — a collaboration between the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, MMIWhoismissing, Restoring Ancestral Winds and MMIW+Utah — began with a communal meal of Navajo tacos. Families gathered at tables and wore red to commemorate murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and orange to commemorate boarding school survivors. Red signs with white writing were posted throughout the garden: “We remember,” “My ancestral memory exceeds my life expectancy.” “Our children are sacred.” “Nourishing people.”

Denae Shanidiin, an adviser to RAW and director of MMIWhoismissing, said feeding people at gatherings is an essential part of indigenous communities and part of the healing process. As a mutual charity, MMIWhoismissing can provide money and volunteers for anything most needed – whether it’s food and drink, transportation, assistance with searches, or funeral expenses and headstones for families of missing or murdered relatives

“We’re very sovereign, and that allows us to pick up on the missing element that other organizations can’t provide,” she said. “So we play this particular role in it, and it’s just volunteers and through kinship. And we are able to feed people that way.”

(Russel A. Daniels) Carl Moore of Pandos enjoys a Navajo taco at Carry the Water Garden in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City during Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Day on May 5, 2022.

At the other end of the garden, the Urban Indian Center was busy at three information booths. Kristinia Groves, Co-Acting Executive Director, said that MMIP “was a problem from the first contact, right? There has been a lot of media about Pocahontas being the first MMIW. I don’t think a lot of people think about it because all we know is the Disney version – not that she was a kid and was taken from her people and never returned to her tribe after she was taken.”

The movement, Groves said, “has garnered a lot of traction in recent years.” “In America, the government is not as involved as it could be. In Canada, that’s been part of reconciliation and taking responsibility for boarding schools and protecting local women, and so people are the ones who really need to reach out and say, ‘Hey, this is a problem, and that’s it always such a problem and we have to take care of this problem.’”

During the meal, people wrote down the names of missing or murdered loved ones, and people attended the garden table filled with ears of corn, packets of seeds, and dried medicinal plants, including calendula and blessing cedar. Ute Indian Tribe drum group Stolen Horse performed as people finished eating, and RAW Board Chair Desiree Green greeted everyone.

Green said her group aims to bring attention to missing and murdered Native American peoples in Utah, which she believes is in the top 10 states for MMIP. “We have eight tribal nations and you don’t have to look far to speak to those who have lost someone or know of cases where someone has been abused or gone missing,” Green said.

Kalama Ku’ikahi, a Carry the Water Garden consultant, told the crowd that “This garden belongs to all the Indigenous and BIPOC peoples who live in Salt Lake. … When we live in the city, many of us feel detached from the country. It’s hard to pray on concrete. It’s hard to pray in areas where you can’t see yourself. It’s hard to pray in areas that don’t seem right. So this is a place of prayer for those of us who are indigenous. So we invite you to be a part of it and build it with us.”

Carl Moore, director of Pandos, an all-volunteer indigenous advocacy group, and SLC Air Protectors, asked the group to realize they were on Ute/Shoshone/Goshute land and then led the group in a four-way song and to a prayer. Pow-wow dancers – including fancy dancers, jingle dancers and a hoop dancer – performed, followed by an intertribal dance and a circle dance around all the children and youth as a gesture of protection. Orange and red candles were distributed to be lit in memory of the victims and survivors of the MMIP and boarding school and a candlelight vigil concluded the evening.

(Russel A. Daniels) Denae Shanidiin uses a feather fan to fan Prince Naveen Scott and Marjorie Scott at the Carry the Water Garden in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City on the Day of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, May 5, 2022 to soil.

The garden is still being developed, Shanidiin said, but events have already been held here, including volunteer days and a gathering on the 30th, which was unveiled during Thursday’s event. Other formal and informal events are held in the garden.

“We connect youth with elders and reestablish a certain kinship with plant medicine, food and ceremonies. We are in the process of building a sweat lodge for the community. We will grow four different types of corn. We have prepared some beds of sweet grass, we have sage and all kinds of medicines that we are going to grow,” she said.

The goal, Shanidiin said, is to create a safe place for tribal peoples, as well as those in the BIPOC and LBGTQ+ or Two Spirit communities.

Corn, said Shanidiin, is considered a “two-spirit, [which] is a new term, but it is one that we can understand and overlap in all our languages, so in these traditional value systems the centering of the two-spirit is very much in the teachings around it. It’s restoring our traditional way of thinking about the binary gender system and trying to dismantle it because that’s where a lot of these violent ideologies come from. …

“We all heal from colonization in different ways, and I think when I look back over the past few years, there’s this validation that healing together is so important,” Shanidiin added. “Instead of despising each other, our kinship is medicine for all of us.”

Although indigenous peoples “feel safest in our BIPOC communities,” Shanidiin said many identify with the cultures around them, adding, “We all have indigenous roots in some way, no matter where we come from, no matter where.” we live, even within an urban environment.”

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