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Written by Gina Lopez

NMIWRC board member Rowena Becenti with MMIW awareness skirt to be displayed at all meetings.

The opening remarks started out…”We resist the Doctrine of Discovery…”

On a chilly morning, I made my way to Gallup, New Mexico answering the invitation from the newly founded non-profit New Mexico Southwest Indigenous Women’s Resource Council (NMIWRC). The board members lined up before a packed meeting room at the only standing mall in the rural city that sits next to the Navajo Nation reservation and shared with us the long road that led to the launch celebration.

The NMIWRC, Inc. shared with us their vision and purpose:

“…support, advance, educate and empower communities to understand and increase awareness for the safety, understanding, healing and justice of all Native American women, children and their relations.”

The board of directors are Sonlatsa Jim-Martin (President), Christopher Hudson (Vice-President), Amanda Singer (Secretary), Rowena Becenti (Board member), Anna Randon (Advisor), Pamelya Herndon (Legal advisor) who, together, introduced us to the visiting Indigenous royalty. Elementary through college-aged students, all youth leaders representing numerous communities carrying with them varied platforms like the Missing & Murdered awareness and anti-bullying campaigns. After introducing themselves, their clans, families and platforms; the future leaders proceeded to serve lunch to the room. A task that is well-known to each of the future leaders and in their full regalia, it was definitely moving and my most memorable lunch.

NMIWRC Board of Directors with a ribbon tied sage bundle.

Tables lined the room where local resources set up their information to offer attendees access to programs within their communities like the Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico’s Gallup office and advocates. The President Sonlatsa Jim-Martin took some time to remind everyone that January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and gave folks an overview of tactics of traffickers and potential hot spots for trafficking in our communities. It was shared throughout this information that we each hold a piece of this prevention, that we each hold opportunities to hold our loved ones close and remind them at every chance that they are loved and wanted.

When there is a brand new opening of an organization, there is sometimes a ribbon cutting at the front entrance but since the NMIWRC has not yet acquired an office, the celebration was instead a ribbon tying ceremony. The ribbon is represented in Indigenous garb to represent many aspects within the culture, namely in their colors. Much like in prevention work, colors hold special and powerful meaning to Indigenous people; different colored ribbons were wrapped and tied around a bundle of sage. A prayer song was sung while this bundle was wrapped and it was announced that this bundle would be carried to every meeting in order to hold recognition of the purpose of the non-profit.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah-Crotty speaking at NMIWRC launch celebration

In a resistance to the Doctrine; the sage bundle signifies that Indigenous communities no longer recognize that the Christian-based justification of the near erasure of an entire people will have the last word. Indigenous movements continue to rise in every corner and today is no exception to the growing voice that demands to be heard. The NMIWRC stood on this day, through ceremony and with strength, they reminded us that together we are strong, together we cannot be erased, and together we must go forward and write our future on our terms.

We welcome the NMIWRC into the fight.

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