Hi Friends of Seeding Sovereignty!
First, I want to say THANK YOU! Together with 60 other donors we raised $4,702.97 since April! I’m so grateful for our reliable and passionate supporters of the Fighting the MMIP Epidemic and Healing Survivors project. You helped us offer our first MSIP Community Healing Beading workshops to over 300 participants in the most recent class! The funding we raised went into buying beading supplies from a local business, mailing out the beading packages, and expanding our healing circles to another session! Your support also helped raise awareness of the MMIP epidemic and helped ensure the space we needed to foster connections with our Indigenous Kin.
Second, it’s been a whirlwind of a journey here at Seeding Sovereignty, and I’m excited to share the incredible journey we’ve been on! The past months have been filled with heartwarming connections, meaningful actions, and a beautiful sense of purpose. So, read along and join us as we update you on our highlights of the past few months – a quarter of growth, awareness, and a whole lot of beaded healing.
In April, we focused on raising awareness about the MMIP epidemic and connected with families to help spread news of missing family members. This support is vital for the healing process of MMIP, as it helps bring attention to the issue and creates a community or support and solidarity among our Indigenous Peoples.
Community Beading Classes
In addition, we focused on creating spaces for our Indigenous families to honor themselves and their loved ones by community healing beading classes. Our hearts were set on bringing about change, which is where the idea for the Red Dress beaded earrings classes came into play.
We announced our beading class for Indigenous Peoples, family, friends and victims of the MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples). We knew that this was a huge unseen need, much of the mainstream media is ignoring (MMIP) it, social media is suppressing (MMIP)it and people needed a safe space. Not only is the epidemic going unseen, but not being given a space to heal, to feel and reconnect with the cultural aspects or how there are generational traumas at play.
As Project Director, my focus became the feeling, healing and reconnecting. I designed a pattern to focus on the reclaiming of personhood. I made a Red Dress earring pattern in the traditional Tlingit style, but from the top down. Bringing to light the need for Indigenous Peoples needing to be “humanized.”
Response to the beading class was beyond our wildest dreams. My previous class had 16 sign ups and 12 participants. With that in mind, and knowing the occasion, I prepped for 30. The next morning, we had nearly 300 sign ups. By days end nearly 400. Ending with a whopping 500. This was both exciting and heartbreaking. We knew we had found an unfilled need. We knew that we didn’t want to turn anyone away. But also knew we were going to be severely limited in supplies we could find.
With that in mind, I made a new pattern to hold true to the purpose but require fewer red beads and adding a little color sparkle. We sent out an SOS call to get the packages ready. We had just two short weeks to prep and mail out almost 300 beaded earring packages for friends, family and relatives. We broke down the participants regionally to make virtual attendance easier. Plus this would give space for community building like in my Tlingit culture. Beading is something we do as a community. At a table with friends and family, laughing, giggling and learning with and for each other.
Beadwork was one of many things lost due to the genocide against the First Nations. Systems were created to oppress our Indigenous kin, but we at Seeding Sovereignty are breaking down these systems through community-led sovereignty - and I wanted to do my part to break the gatekeeping.
Bead work is universal across First Nations communities, the difference is the style, patterns and coloration, which are usually passed down through generations. So I figured giving people an open door with the basic skill would encourage them to grow in their culture. This seemed to be well received. We had a wide range of Nations represented.
I want to share an experience with you all, because this story will always be with me. While telling the participants my story and why I became an advocate for Missing and Surviving Indigenous Peoples, one family, a mother and daughter stopped me and asked questions. The mother felt embarrassed about “being so old, just learning this.” I politely stopped her saying, “This was stolen from you, from us. It's nothing to be ashamed of, you should be proud of yourself. Your courage to learn and stand up for yourself and our culture speaks volumes of your character. I am in awe of you.” After some more discussion I told them that it saddened me that my own mother felt no other choice than to leave her home village so that she could raise her children. I was raised with all these beliefs and cultural values, not knowing it was because I was a child of the Tlingit Nation – all because of Residential School policies. I was six when the laws finally changed, but my mother still didn’t feel safe since she technically was not allowed to vote in federal elections because of laws on the books. More than 4 decades later, some of these laws still prevent Indigenous First Nations from participating in Federal elections. Rather than getting better, many are getting worse.
All that to say, I was grateful to experience a wide range of Nations represented, with Tlinglit culture standing prominently among them, in the beading classes. Through shared stories, we learned of the impact of Residential School Policies, a history that continues to shape the lives of Indigenous Peoples.
As April came to a close, the momentum continued. We shifted our focus to the MMIP March in Seattle, organized by MMWP & Families March. Our team was hard at work, ensuring we had shirts, posters, stickers, and other Seeding Sovereignty materials to share with community members. The scent of freshly made fry bread filled the air as we handed them out to take part in this meaningful event.
Simultaneously, plans were in motion for the Travelers AGM on the 24th of May, another opportunity to foster connections and drive change (more to share on this later!).
The months were full of moments that solidified connections and created space of shared experiences from making earrings for honoring Elder Care packages, to prep work for the final Red Dress classes, to contributing to Dream Nation Love’s podcast episode three. Each step was a stitch in a larger narrative of solidarity and change!
As I reflect on the incredible past few months, I am filled with gratitude for the unwavering support and passion that surrounds the MMIP Program! I am humbled by the opportunity to be a part of a movement that is carving out spaces for healing, for storytelling, and for honoring the lives and experiences of Indigenous Peoples.
This quarter, I am gearing up to prep all the materials needed to the Elder Care Packages and to continue to raise awareness about the MMIP epidemic by fostering the connections we have. As we enter into the Autumn season, I invite you to stay tuned for more updates, more stories, and more moments of connection. Until then, remember that each bead represents hope, each stitch embodies resilience, and each earring tells a tale of strength.
With love and gratitude,
MMIP Program Lead