Black Hills State University
There are 70 missing or murdered indigenous women in South Dakota and Lily Mendoza wants to make sure they are remembered. A Black Hills State University alum, Lily will return to campus Tuesday, April 9 to present “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW): Why Are Our Sisters Missing” as part of American Indian Awareness week.
Mendoza, Cheyenne River Sioux, co-founded the Red Ribbon Skirt Society two years ago to support the families of murdered and missing indigenous women. On March 29, the Society opened a center for healing, prayer, and remembrance in Rapid City.
“I started listening and educating myself on what the loss of these women meant and started thinking about their families and their needs. When I started contacting those families, the response was that nobody had asked them about their stolen sister, daughter,” says Mendoza.
The families were grieving in silence by themselves. Mendoza says listening to their stories and simply saying the woman’s name was very healing to the families.
The center for healing is adorned with red dresses that include the names of the 70 South Dakota women included as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Mendoza says the Red Ribbon Skirt Society will continue to add names in their “Red Book” which has names of the 5,000 women documented as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the United States.
“We want to tell the community that this crisis is real,” says Mendoza. “It has happened to our women as far back as the early 1900s, it's current and happening today and could happen to anyone.”
Mendoza hosts the Red Ribbon Skirt Society meetings at her business, Bird Cage Book Store in Rapid City which features Native American and women’s literature. After graduating from Black Hills State University in the 80s, Mendoza created a music therapy program for troubled youth, worked in higher education, marketing, and developed programs to keep Native Americans in school. She and her husband created their own business 12 years ago providing book fairs to Native American communities and schools.
A mother of five children raised in Rapid City, Mendoza is part of a legacy of Black Hills State University alumni including her mother, siblings, and several grandchildren.
Mendoza will present Tuesday, April 9 from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in Jonas Hall 107 on the Black Hills State University campus. All American Indian Awareness Week events April 8-12 are open to the public. See the full schedule of speakers and information about the 36th Annual Wacipi (Pow Wow) at www.BHSU.edu/AmericanIndianStudies
Learn more about the Red Ribbon Skirt Society at https://www.shamusproject.com/red-ribbon-skirt-society