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Healing through activism: Campaign draws attention to missing and murdered Indigenous people

a billboard with a picture of a Native woman and red hand print over her mouth
The Native Justice Coalition
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A billboard up in Grand Haven right now aims to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous people.

If you live in Grand Haven, you might have noticed a new billboard up in town this fall. It calls attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and two spirit people. The Native Justice Coalition is the group behind the billboard campaign. The coalition serves Native communities across the state. Cecelia LaPointe, the group's founder and director, helped create the coalition around three years ago. They say the idea initially came out of a storytelling event they helped in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. 

“It was also founded out of the struggle, and out of things I have personally experienced, like racism in the workplace or racism in day to day life. But it’s not just that. It’s also the generational trauma, historical trauma, and the current traumas we face as Native people,” LaPointe said.

The main goal of the Native Justice Coalition is to advance social and racial justice within the Great Lakes region. They also work to bring awareness to the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two Spirits. That's an umbrella term for members of the LGBTQ community used across  different Indigenous communities.

“The billboard is meant to draw attention,” LaPointe said. “What is another way to kind of spark another conversation and challenge dynamics that exist in communities—that complacency that everything’s okay, everything is fine in the suburbs, when it’s actually not.”

The coalition’s billboard project launched in August of 2019. It has placed 11 billboards in nine different locations around the Midwest. LaPointe emphasized that the coalition is doing work today that helps address current problems while also honoring and healing their ancestors. 

“It gives their pain, their sorrow, their grief, a voice, so together, we actually heal with the ancestors, and our stories give their stories power,” said LaPointe.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan.

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