Students march for Missing & Murdered Indigenous People Awareness Week

The Native American Student Association (NASA) and Gamma Delta Pi assembled last week with activities to raise awareness for Missing & Murdered Indigenous People Awareness Week at the University of Central Oklahoma.

2024 Miss Native UCO Jules Black leads the march on campus with other members of Gamma Delta Pi and NASA. (ZIPPORAH HAWKINS/PROVIDED)

Ready to march and adorned in blood-red clothes and paint, the two organizations were joined by other students as they gathered under the blue tent in front of the Nigh University Center on Wednesday. Students holding signs reading “No More Stolen People” and “Say Their Names” peacefully demonstrated across campus.

“Week after week, somebody goes missing or is murdered,” said NASA executive and 2024 Miss Native UCO Jules Black. 

On May 2, Gamma Delta Pi and NASA held a bake sale to raise awareness for MMIP week inside the Nigh University Center.

Unfortunately, MMIP week’s kickoff and finale color run were canceled as a result of severe weather on Monday and Friday. 

“It is very important that the campus, UCO and our allies and affiliates understand how these common murders and disappearances impact our community,” Black said. 

Murder is the third-highest cause of death for indigenous women, 10x higher than all other ethnicities in the United States, according to the Native Women’s Wilderness nonprofit organization. 

Since 2016, the National Crime Information Center has reported over 5,700 cases of missing indigenous women. However, the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing persons database has only 116 reports. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates that nearly 4,200 murders or disappearances have gone unsolved. 

The goal of UCO’s NASA is to strengthen awareness of Native American culture here in Edmond. The student association promotes the diverse history and languages of the 574 government-recognized tribes, and many more unrecognized tribes. 

Gamma Delta Pi is UCO’s first Native American-interest sorority on campus, established in 2021. 

A lack of resources and negligence by federal and state governments have put tribes in a tough spot, where much of the investigations are done through families and community members, as opposed to professionals. 

“The Central Oklahoma Chapter helps us search for these people with our independent task force,” Black said. “We have to rally support for the families and relatives of those victims when these cases go unsolved.”

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