The soft glow of candles flickered beneath the glow of the Rocky Mountain College sign along Poly Drive as Crow elder Ada Bends recited a prayer Sunday night.
Bends, opened Rocky’s first Missing or Murdered Indigenous Peoples vigil, which is part of the nine-day Native American Outreach Indigenous Gathering on campus.
NAO Director Michaela Talksabout and Coordinator Tauzha Grantham worked with local advocate Charlene Sleeper to bring attention to the grassroots movement , whichwas formed in response to violence against In digenous people and inaction from law enforcement officials. The movement has mobilized in recent years and exerted political pressure on the government, resulting in the creation of new task forces and laws dedicated to MMIP.
The vigil marks the third day of the nine day Indigenous Gathering Week events at Rocky Mountain College, with everything culminating in a traditional powwow on Saturday, Oct. 1 that will be held on the Herb Klindt Football Field. The event marks a more somber period of the gathering.
“In celebrating Indigenous people, we have to also talk about the serious stuff," Talksabout said.
Talksabout said t he goal of the vigil was to not only bring attention to the importance of the MMIP movement, but to bring a space for people to heal from the trauma of losing a loved one.
“I came into this saying, if only two people came out I’d be happy, because it’s a start," she said, adding she was impressed with the amount of people who attended.
Grantham said she counted around 50 people.
The event brought Nicole Merton, an I ndigenous photographer from California who is working on a series of photos regarding MMIP called “Here… Our Voices, Our MMIW Movement”. Merton spoke out about the importance of the movement, telling people to “o pen your eyes and pay attention to things that don’t seem right."
"We need to be more visual," she said. "If you see something, say something, don’t just assume someone else will do something about it“