A resolution to commission a totem pole in Juneau that is dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women and people was unanimously passed Friday afternoon by delegates on the final day of the 88th annual Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Tribal Assembly.
The passing was followed by a standing ovation and cheers from both the delegates and the public who attended the event at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.
Lax̲áakúda.oo Jessica Elopre, a Seattle delegate of the Assembly, said the pole symbolizes the tribe’s unity in its support of remembering the people impacted by the critical issue and bringing more awareness to it.
“With today’s passing of that totem pole, we’re working together, all of us are working together to acknowledge our missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, people,” she said. “We stand up in one voice to recognize that they’re not lost, they’re not forgotten — they bring so much hope, joy and healing.”
According to the resolution, the pole will be raised on Tlingit and Haida land, and will include a plaque placed at the base of the totem pole that includes information and statistics about the disproportionate rates of violence, abduction and homicides of Indigenous women and people, and the lack of representation that the crisis has been given.
“A totem pole dedicated to honoring MMIWP will serve as a profound and meaningful way to acknowledge our missing sisters and relatives, symbolize our efforts of ending violence and attaining justice, and create awareness for this epidemic worldwide,” the resolution states.
Sx̱aałg̱én Stephanie Masterman, Seattle delegate of the Assembly, said the pole being raised and its message will have a direct impact on the community.
“I am the daughter of a survivor, and I wouldn’t be here today quite literally if I hadn’t made the ultimate sacrifice and kept herself and her children safe,” she said. “That alone is healing for all of us, and I feel it deeply because just down the road is an area my mother had to flee for her safety.”
The state of Alaska ranks fourth and Washington ranks second in the nation for the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women cases, according to a 2020 study by the Urban Indian Health Institute.
Across the country, it’s estimated that approximately 4,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women cases have gone unsolved, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau Indian Affairs.
The resolution does not identify the location of the pole or its carver.