by Verna Colliver
EPA CoNAM Secretary
Elizabeth Rule, American University professor, spoke at the Clarke Forum on Contemporary Issues, Dickinson College, October 26, 2021. EPA CoNAM attended the forum.
The ongoing efforts toward “Seeking Justice for Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women” were the focus of a talk by Elizabeth Rule, assistant professor of critical race, gender, and cultural studies at American University and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, given at Dickinson College on October 26, 2021.
EPA CoNAM members, Sandi Cianciulli and Verna Colliver, along with Boe Harris of Delaware and MaryAnn Robins of Circle Legacy Center, were invited to participate in the evening program by providing music, dance and a Redress Display vividly depicting the indigenous women whose lives have been brutally ended. Buttons and postcards with an artistic visual image of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women were offered to attendees as stark reminders of the silenced women.
The program, sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, began as Boe Harris-Nakakakena, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Spirit Lake Dakota, engaged the students seated in the auditorium with the voice of her traditional flute. Elizabeth Rule was then introduced as a researcher who “primarily focuses on the barriers that Indigenous communities are facing in the 21st century and the importance of public education regarding Indigenous heritage in the U. S.” Her work has been published in prestigious journals, and she has traveled the world working to educate the Native American community and the general public in various venues.
Rule’s key points—the need to investigate the discrimination, to attack the racism and prejudice, and to correct the inaccuracies and lack of media coverage—were underscored by visual charts and images and by her referencing the red dresses on display. The students responded in the Q and A session with thoughtful questions to which Rule responded with clear and incisive answers.
Indeed, she held the attention of the audience, educating them on the history and pervasiveness of the injustice and oppression perpetuated for years by “settler colonialism” that continues to affect Native American communities today. “I was hanging on to every word, everything she said was inspiring,” commented Sandi, who also expressed her thanks to be honored with the invitation to the evening program.
Boe expressed her feelings this way: “It was an honor and privilege to support Elizabeth Rule in her journey to bring awareness of seeking justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. As an elder, it warms the heart and spirit to see our young Indigenous women honor those who walked before, those who walk now and preparing the path for those yet to come.”
As MaryAnn aptly summed up the impact of Rule’s well-chosen words, “It is the voice of the young who shall carry our words forward. John Legend said, ‘We can be Heroes and be the change that you want to see.’ Elizabeth is putting her words and footsteps for all those MMIW who have been taken from their loved ones, crying with voices clinging on the winds to bring them home. I see the change that she is starting today.”
A Jingle Dance, the symbol of healing and spiritual wellness, performed by Boe Harris and MaryAnn Robins concluded the program, drawing an appreciative response from the audience. A livestream recording of the program will be posted in the near future.
Mission: With God’s grace and guidance, the NORTHEASTERN JURISDICTION NATIVE AMERICAN MINISTRIES COMMITTEE will serve as the body that gathers to listen to and support fellow Native United Methodists, partners with all Native Peoples, educates non-Natives, and advocates for Native issues with our strong Native communities in the Northeastern Jurisdiction and beyond.