Crystal Cavalier traveled from Robeson County to speak on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the 2020 Raleigh Women’s March. Here is her speech. She is willing and able to speak more on this topic.
My name is Crystal Cavalier, I am a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. I am the [North Carolina] State political director for the Tom Steyer campaign, and I am working on my doctorate at the University of Dayton on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). I appreciate the organizers for giving light to this issue here in NC. My mom could have been a MMIW, she is a survivor of a domestic violence and I was her witness.
Recent gripping headline concerning missing indigenous women have highlighted what a widespread story this has become over the years on Reservations. North Carolina is different, not all live on reservations, we live in rural American Indian communities. Our state does not report the number of American Indian persons who are missing. It’s a problem that has persisted for centuries, from the kidnapping, raping and enslaving our indigenous women to our race being changed on census records.
I want to thank the several indigenous women leaders in NC tribal nations who see the blind spots that have existed for far too long in our government.
Most of the MMIW cases remain unsolved. Many are never reported or investigated. By the way, Robeson County leads the state in American Indian women’s unsolved murders.
We just don’t die, and we don’t just disappear. Something happened.
What we need is a state sponsored Missing Murdered Indigenous task force to look into the issue as well as help for our American Indian families to find relief and justice. I have seen patterns of
- police dismissing concerned families with the excuse that “runaways always come back.”
- coroners dodging paperwork and scrawling “other” next to the line titled “Race” and “accidental death.”
- government officials, from top to bottom, hoarding the kind of power that keeps the crisis alive.
- men who don’t respect women, and our native men who have forgotten how to be protectors and men have forgotten about respect and talking to women as equals.
- and oil and gas industries putting their hands our lands to take lives that do not belong to them.
Addressing the crisis requires an action from you, the public, to force its elected representatives to enact these changes. And doing that would require you to not just know what MMIW is but to get up in arms about its causes and demand change in a way that supports the organizing being done by indigenous citizens here in NC.
However, for years now, we have been stuck on acknowledgment. Listening to elected officials admit there is a problem over and over, and actively finger point at each other, and at other departments is a detriment to the cause. Meanwhile, the witnesses to these horrific acts of violence sit quietly to the side.
Knowing the names of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women isn’t enough. We need to stand up and stand together. We know the urgency of the crisis, we know there are ways forward, and we know the people and systems standing in the way.
Crystal Cavalier, MPA, CCTA
Raleigh Women’s March