Wednesday — September 22, 2021

“Remember ME on California Native American Day”

by: A Native American Woman

This Friday, in recognition of California Native American Day, September 24, 2021, we will be closing our office for the day to celebrate and acknowledge the diverse and culturally rich Native American people and cultures in California. There is certainly a lot to celebrate! I hope we all can explore the various activities, gatherings, and other Native-inspired events that will occur throughout the September 24th weekend. Education is enrichment, isn’t it? Learning about others and different perspectives, traditions, beliefs, and just focusing on something other than oneself. But and you knew there was a “but” coming…could we please consider ME on that day?

Do I mean ME, as in Samantha Thornsberry, 50-year-old Cahuilla woman, who is a daughter, sister, niece, mother, and grandmother? Well, yes…and no. What I really mean is this: remember all those Native women and girls who want to be seen, counted, cared-for, and valued…as equally as other women and girls of every color. I’m saying all of this because of the recent media coverage surrounding the unfortunate mystery of the missing young woman, Gabrielle Petito. As of this week, she has been discovered deceased. And an investigation is underway to solve what might have happened to her. How do I know all of this? Same as you. The national and local news coverage, the social media blasts, and all the Tick Tock videos of crime junkies who are making it their mission to help solve the case. “All hands-on deck,” as the investigation is unfolding minute by minute.

Of course, everyone, including me, feels like a complete and utter heel for mentioning the lopsided attention that has poured out from John Q. Public regarding the Petito disappearance and ongoing investigation. It boggles the mind at how fast mainstream America jumped into solving the case!(Insert cringe-face here). Before I go further, however, I must say that as a human being, who is also a global citizen living on this planet with everyone else, I say, “thank you, Creator,” for bringing Gabrielle back to her family and home so that her parents can work to find some sense of understanding from her loss. And so, they can also seek justice should the circumstances around her death be at the hands of another. I know that this family, like so many, need to find some form of catharsis. How do they or can they move on from such a loss? 

I say this and I know this because so many in our Native communities have experienced the same loss, victimization and brutality, and the need for justice, closure, or answers. The difference is that in our Native communities, we continue to worry about where our daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, aunties, grandmothers, and relatives are and what happened to them…and who might be responsible for their not coming back home. And we cannot help but acknowledge that mainstream America is not typing “her” name into a post or making a video to share information about where “she” went missing, or what the latest news might be on the police investigation, other than her family that is. Often in Native communities, family members turn into private investigators overnight as they desperately search for their missing relative. The inequity is real, and it is hard not to shout from the top of my lungs, “HELP, MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN OVER HERE!I wonder, could John Q. Public help with solving some of these MMIWG cases too? There are literally thousands to go around. But, at the end of the day, all I…we…really want is to be cared about. Simply put. To be seen.

So, on California Native American Day, please, while you are appreciating the richness of Native American culture, take a moment to think about ME and all of those like me, but especially those Native American women, girls, and our relatives that are missing and who have families worrying about them. We are NOT invisible.

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