Documentary brings into focus the epidemic of missing, murdered Indigenous women - Albuquerque Journal

Documentary brings into focus the epidemic of missing, murdered Indigenous women

U.S. Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-N.D., speaks at the Fifth Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of Michael Phillips)

The United States is facing a human rights crisis. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic directly correlates to the ongoing epidemic of violence against Native women.

Leya Hale

Out of the 5,712 missing and murdered Indigenous women counted in 2016, only 116 were logged in a Department of Justice database.

Leya Hale wants to empower her community.

This is why she is at the helm of the documentary, “Bring Her Home,” which tells the story of three Indigenous women fighting to vindicate and honor their missing and murdered relatives.

An activist, an artist and a politician each strive to find healing and hope for themselves, and for their Native community.

Mysti Babineau, head of security at the Fifth Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of Anna Jean Williams)

The Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Diné filmmaker worked with Vision Maker Media, an organization dedicated to empowering and engaging Native people to share stories. “Bring Her Home” will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Monday, March 21, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1.

“I feel like when I was making the film, I was crying a lot,” Hale says. “I wanted this piece to be a source of empowerment for our community. There’s only so much the outside greater community can do. The change needs to come from us. We are starting to talk about it and keeping the issue at the forefront of the conversation.”

Artist Angela Two Stars, activist Mysti Babineau and U.S. Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-N.D., have all experienced and coped with the enduring trauma of colonization in their Indigenous communities.

Within the framework of marching at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Rally in March, an annual community event honoring missing Native women, the film tells the stories of how these women have brought attention to the crisis while also providing encouragement to their communities.

Angela Two Stars harvests traditional medicines on the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Reservation in South Dakota. (Courtesy of Michael Phillips)

“Native women make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average,” Hale says. “I’ve made it my obligation to not only highlight the challenges my people face, but to offer stories of resilience, healing, and hope to empower Indigenous communities near and far. It is my hope that this film will drive public awareness that will serve as a catalyst for conversation, cultural reclamation and ultimately, systemic change.”

Work on “Bring Her Home” began three years ago and Hale wanted to bring in topics that would move the narrative arc forward.

At the same time, she had to narrow down the ideas because the topic is so broad.

“I wanted to make sure there were different tribes in it,” she says. “I also wanted it to not be strictly in Minnesota. Ruth Buffalo resides in Fargo (North Dakota).”

Hale was captivated by Savanna Greywind’s story.

On Aug. 19, 2017, Brooke Crews, 40, murdered eight-months pregnant Greywind and slit open her belly to take her baby, Haisley Jo.

Now, more than two years later, that baby is miraculously alive and well. Greywind was 22 years old and a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe.

“This was one story of a murdered Indigenous woman that gained national attention,” she says. “I wanted to include this story because of the attention it garnered. These stories should be at the forefront, but we’ve got to do the work to make sure that these women are noticed.”

The production came with a few roadblocks as well.

Because many tribes usually don’t talk about loved ones that are gone, Hale had to earn their trust.

“Being a Native director, I was trying to figure out how I could protect these women when they are telling the painful stories,” she says. “I didn’t want to re-traumatize them. I wanted to encourage the healing process. I would do a smudge before and after we filmed. This would help the women feel safe.”

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