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In Provo, Marchers Draw Attention To Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Women in bright dresses with pieces of metal sewn on dance in front of a courthouse
Sonja Hutson / KUER
Native women perform the healing Jingle Dance at the Women’s March in Provo Saturday after discussing high rates of violence against indigenous women and girls.";

PROVO — Growing up as a young Navajo girl here, Erin Tapahe would get upset that every time she left the house, her parents fell into the same routine.

They’d ask where was she going, and insist she text them whenever she arrived or left someplace, she said. 

“I once found this very annoying and thought that they didn’t trust me,” she said. “But over time I have found out that it is the world they do not trust.” 

The world Tapahe’s parents didn’t trust was one in which Native American experience the highest rate of homicide of all races in Utah at 8.3 per 100,000 residents, according to the state’s Department of Vital Records. It’s a world in which instances of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls go significantly underreported, according to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute. 

Tapahe spoke at the Women’s March in Provo Saturday about these issues. After several hundred marchers walked from Pioneer Park to the historic County Courthouse through the city’s downtown, speakers stood on the courthouse steps and discussed sexual assault, healthcare for women and nonbinary people and the high rate of missing and murdered indigenous women. 

Similar marches were held around Utah and the United States, from Anchorage to Orlando. Other speakers included sexual assault survivors and a nonbinary person who had recently undergone top surgery.   

Tapahe said she supported a bill by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, which would create a task force to study the issue of murdered and missing Native women in Utah. 

“I want to be a mom,” Tapahe said. “I want to have children, and I want them to feel safe. I want them to thrive and have dreams without the fear of being abused.”

The Women’s March ended with an indigenous Jingle Dance, where a small group of Native women danced with rolled up tobacco can lids attached to their dresses. 

“When we dance and you hear the jingles, it is a prayer being sent out to our ancestors, for whatever troubles we have and for whatever community troubles that are here,” said Tapahe’s sister, Dion.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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