2023 Remembering Our Sisters Fellows Travel to Seattle, WA for Final Convening
On August 27, 2023, the six brave and courageous fellows of the Remember Our Sisters (ROS) Fellowship traveled to Seattle, Washington for the final convening of the nine-month program.
Remembering Our Sisters is a fellowship for young Indigenous women and femme-identifying leaders, ages 18-24. The fellowship brings attention and awareness to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit (MMIWG2S+) epidemic through digital art and digital storytelling projects. Fellows were provided resources, technical assistance, mentorship, the opportunity to hear and learn from fellow advocates and leaders of the movement, peer-to-peer learning, and a platform to share and elevate their projects. Fellows received stipends to assist the development of their projects as well as support from the CNAY staff.
The six fellows, Autumn McMillan, Danielle Fixico, Kamijo Whiteclay, Mackenzie Sleeman, Mercedes Danforth-Hernandez, and Rachel Janis, spent nine months developing their MMIWG2S+ digital art projects and connecting virtually with each other as well as advocates in the space. They arrived in Seattle ready to build community and present their final MMIWG2S+ digital art projects.
Upon arriving in Seattle, the fellows welcomed one another and staff with warm hugs and smiles. They traveled to downtown Seattle where they had lunch and talked of their travels from their homelands. They then walked through Pike Market looking at the local vendors and artisans, absorbing the city’s culture. Community was immediately created between the fellows throughout their adventures that first day.
On Friday morning the fellows and CNAY staff gathered in Tulalip, WA for the Remembering Our Sisters Convening. Lois Landgrebe from the Tulalip language department greeted attendees with a prayer song, given to her community from a past tribal Chairman. With a warm heart she shared her knowledge of the land they were on and ended with a story of the cedar tree, spoken in Lushootseed and translated into English. Everyone in attendance was engaged and appreciated her warm welcome.
After Lois’ welcome, the six fellows then presented their projects. These young women came from all across Indian Country, including Alaska. Several of the projects incorporated the fellows own personal experiences with the MMIWG2S+ epidemic through video, blogs and ledger art. One film explained, “these communities need to be healed, there is work to be done.” Other projects included an art exhibit, Beyond the Veil, explaining the MMIWG2S+ movement to the audience and encouraging them to do their own research and explaining how to become involved in the stories of the women Native people are fighting for. One fellow incorporated powerful photography of Choctaw women and young girls in an awareness-raising report about the epidemic.
These six brave women told their stories eloquently through their artistic talents. Everyone in attendance was touched by their projects. They came together as warriors and stood shoulder to shoulder to raise awareness on such an important topic in Indian Country.
To conclude the convening, Michael Cervantes (Penelakut Tribe) of the Urban Indian Health Institute and a policy associate of the Seattle Indian Health Board spoke on the MMIWG2S+ epidemic, providing statistics and resources. Before departing, Michael shared the Executive Order for Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP), a sample of how to incorporate advocacy into policy.
On the last day, the fellows and staff of CNAY visited the Hibulb Cultural Center in Tulalip, Washington to learn about the local culture of the Tulalip Tribes and the land they were on. They then traveled to Seattle and went to the Museum of Pop Culture, a stop at International Fountain on the walk to the Space Needle! Throughout the day, you could hear joy and laughter among the fellows. They were all accepting and true to one another.
The close-out of the convening took place near the water in Seattle. The fellows sat with one another and partook in a ‘giveaway’, an exercise developed by Dr. Billie Jo Kipp, based on a Native custom of giving back to your community. They each shared their reflections from the fellowship journey and then gave away an offering to the other fellows. The night ended at dinner in Tulalip, including a celebration of one of the fellow’s birthdays.
Although the Seattle convening marks the end of the second cohort of the ROS Fellowship, it is just the beginning for these six fellows. They will continue to uplift one another in their journey to bring awareness and create action to end the MMIWG2S+ epidemic for future generations so their communities can fully and safely live and thrive. The fellowship gave them the resources and platform to continue to advocate for increased visibility and action to end the MMIWG2S+ epidemic and help advance effective policy to end violence against Indigenous women. CNAY will continue to support these advocates. We encourage you to learn more about each of the fellows and explore their projects here.