Honoring our Indigenous Sisters Candlelight Vigil by Jana Pfeiffer
March is Women’s History Month, and the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women kicked off the month with a candlelight vigil event, “Honoring our Indigenous Sisters.” This community event brought out more than 75 people to share prayers, songs, dancing and words in honor of our Indigenous women who have been affected by violence. Our goal at CSVANW this month is to celebrate our Native women’s collective resiliency and empower their legacies.
On March 7th, 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by the United States Congress. The revisited laws expanded special protections that provided increased public safety considerations for Native American women. This Act is a triumph for tribal communities to PROTECTING our beautiful Native sisters. VAWA’s legacy for tribal communities is to provide healthier and safer communities for women.
With the recent reauthorization of the VAWA and the month of March being “Women’s History Month,” CSVANW wanted to celebrate this month with a Candlelight Vigil to recognize the importance of Indigenous women’s rights for justice and how overall, women continue to contribute to society in many invaluable ways.
On the evening of March 3rd, at the University of New Mexico’s Duck pond, all walks of life came together during the “Honoring our Indigenous Sisters” Candlelight Vigil. A partnered event with UNM’s Kiva Club. It was a beautiful evening of honoring, songs, prayers and round dance for Indigenous women, IMPACTED BY VIOLENCE and bringing AWARENESS to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Assembled in a circle, the opening began with Wilson Gover’s honor song; he was CSVANW’s designated singer throughout the vigil. Wilson was able to collectively harmonize our minds in a meditative and calm state. To ease away full days of activities and be present among those gathered.
There were some prominent grassroots poets, community members, teachers, students and esteemed scholars, like, Tanaya Winder, Dr. Minthorn, Dr. Suzon Harjo, Amanda Blackhorse, Whispher, Keioshiah Peter and Lyla June Johnston. These Indigenous women either stood in solidarity or spoke from their hearts to offer a sense of acknowledgment, empowerment, hope and reflection.
Sweat Nations is a jingle dress dance group from the Native American Community Academy. They offered a healing dance guided by their teacher Whisper. The sounds of the water fountain all around and the jingle motion set the tone of why we were all there. To heal.
It has come to my understanding, that many of us heal in our own way. Just even the sights and sounds of the event provided an indigenous way of therapeutic healing. During the “OPEN MIC” there were powerful storytelling, testimonies and poetry that took place, many came forward and expressed their experiences. Our shared histories are a way to communicate experiences that may prevent or intervene violent situations for Indigenous women or children.
We must continue to ask ourselves, “What legacy do we want to leave for our children?” Because #ViolenceisNotOurTradition and to stop the cycle of violence, we must bring awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Indigenous women are the heart of the home and it’s important to support their journey through a number a safe spaces. The Coalition To Stop Violence Against Native Women is honored to have offered a safe space, at the Candlelight Vigil for all walks of life to reflect and heal in solidarity.