Indigenous people in the United States are victims of high rates of violence. The Centers for Disease Control estimates about half of Native women are raped or experience unwanted sexual contact. Homicide is among the ten leading causes of death for Native men.
The national spotlight on the issue has grown in recent years. People march with red handprints painted across their mouths. Red dresses hang from trees to symbolize missing women. Since 2017 the Federal Government has recognized May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.
For sexual assault advocates who work with Native survivors in Colorado, the work began long before that broad national attention. Kelsey Lansing is a cultural outreach coordinator with the Sexual Assault Services Organization in Durango and Ignacio. She got together with Gina Lopez, who lives and works in Towaoc as the rural and Indigenous communities specialist for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Monycka Snowbird, program director of Haseya Advocate Program in Colorado Springs. They formed a grassroots task force last year to work toward solutions.