“Medicine in a world of violence”: Shining Light on Community-led Efforts to fight the MMIR Epidemic

Janene Yazzie · February 15, 2023

“Medicine in a world of violence”: Shining Light on Community-led Efforts to fight the MMIR Epidemic

Challenging the commercialization of February 14, NDN Collective’s Southwest Regional Director Janene Yazzie calls attention to the MMIR (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives) Day of Awareness, National Day of Action, and grassroots efforts to fight the MMIR epidemic. Yazzie also shares future MMIR programming from NDN Collective coming soon.

On this day of love, we join Indigenous Peoples from Turtle Island to the Pacific to remember and honor so many beloved relatives lost to the epidemic of violence impacting our communities. In doing so we continue to uplift the strength of Linda Ann Joe and her family, who started the Women’s Memorial March February 14, 1991 in Vancouver, Canada, in remembrance of her daughter. It’s fitting that the march started on a colonial holiday of romance and “love” because it challenges the commercialization of this day to remember that our Indigenous traditions and ways of living have always honored community love, care, and compassion as an important part of our collective responsibility.

2019 Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC. Photo by Brandi Douglas, NDN Collective Senior Communications Associate.

The power of the prevalence of these teachings has been evident in the growing movement to honor and remember the missing and murdered so that for many Indigenous Peoples, February 14th has since come to be known as the National Day of Action, marked by marches and vigils across numerous cities. NDN Collective joined one such event in Minneapolis, covering the march Live from our social media platforms.

We know that it’s our relatives on the frontlines that have been, and will continue to be, medicine in a world grappling with heteronormative and patriarchal systems rooted in a culture of violence.

The power of awareness and visibility cannot be underestimated. It’s movements like these, birthed from the tireless advocacy and work of grassroots groups, that have led to many successes in the fight to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. One such example is the passage of the 2017 senate resolution which recognizes May 5th as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. As we approach the 6 year anniversary, NDN Collective will be developing and sharing content in collaboration with community partners to reflect on the advancements, ongoing challenges, and promising solutions to address the epidemic of violence that continues to affect Indigenous Peoples.

A speaker at the 2018 MMIR March in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Sarah Manning, NDN Collective Director of Communications.

Some such offerings include hosting a live panel of MMIR advocates from Turtle Island to the Pacific to talk about their work; working with community partners to publish a series of blogs tackling some of the most complex issues about this epidemic; as well as sharing content across our platforms that recognize and promote the important community-led work that is the heart of this movement. 

Through these offerings we will address priority topics identified by movement builders on the ground such as the commodification of the movement by companies with no accountability to those doing the actual work on the frontlines. Other topics will include the benefits and challenges created by greater visibility of the epidemic as well as the on-going issues of invisibilizing our trans, two spirit and non-binary relatives, or the complete erasure of our relatives living with disabilities.

It’s movements like these, birthed from the tireless advocacy and work of grassroots groups, that have led to many successes in the fight to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives.

We will unpack what needs to be learned from emerging data that shows Indigenous men are being murdered or disappeared at a higher rate than our women and the particular type of victim blaming that is leading to their erasure. We will also discuss emerging threats and new forms of exploitation made possible by the rise of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how disparities in digital access and representation can exacerbate the challenges we face. Most importantly, we will highlight the incredible groundbreaking work of advocates, families, and allies, as well as the solutions rooted in the restoration and/or r(e)volution of cultural values, lifeways, and worldviews that hold the key to restoring place-based practices for community safety and wellbeing.

A supportive embrace between two participants during the 2018 MMIR March in Minneapolis, MN. Photo By Sarah Manning, NDN Collective Director of Communications.

We know that through sharing solutions we can better honor the incredible Indigenous-led work happening across our lands, and move beyond the horror of the statistics and data, the collection of which continues to be a burden forced onto our communities to prove the violence we faced is real.

We know that it’s our relatives on the frontlines that have been, and will continue to be, medicine in a world grappling with heteronormative and patriarchal systems rooted in a culture of violence. It is our intent with the launch of these offerings to reflect the love with which so many fight to achieve justice, peace, safety, and wellbeing for all Peoples and Mother Earth. 

Watch the Full NDN Live of the Annual MMIR March – Minneapolis, MN

Janene Yazzie
by   Janene Yazzie

Janene Yazzie (She/Her/Hers), Southwest Regional Director, is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She has over 12 years of experience as a community organizer and human rights advocate deeply rooted in local community issues. Beginning from her community Tsé si’ áni, in Diné Bikéyah, she has worked on the intersections of climate change, water security, food security, energy development, and nation building with indigenous communities and indigenous-led organizations in the US, Canada and Latin America.


Working at the local, national, and international levels of governance, she has built expertise in advancing Indigenous Peoples rights through policy and facilitating rights-based approaches to development through holistic, place-based solutions. She has a background in International Policy and Human Rights.

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