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Students learn about MMIW

CHAMBERLAIN – On October 14, St. Joseph’s Indian School and Native Hope staff led female students in grades 6-12th grade through an educational opportunity on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the Red Sand Project. The event brought awareness and provided information on protective factors around sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is prevalent in South Dakota, and Native American women and children are disproportionately at risk.

The late-afternoon sessions began in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel and included prayer, sharing statistics and a video created by Native Hope. Following the presentation, students made prayer ties while alumnus and houseparent Shawn Zephier sang a Native American suffering song. The ties will be strung together and will hang in the wind from the school’s prayer tree, carrying the students’ prayers for victims to the heavens.

Following the presentation, each student received a bag of red sand provided by the Red Sand Project (redsandproject.org/). Students filled cracks in the sidewalk outside, an action demonstrating a commitment not to let anyone fall through the cracks because of a lack of awareness about sex trafficking. According to the Red Sand Project, “The most vulnerable people in our communities carry the greatest risk of losing their freedom … The simple act of placing sand in a crack or posting a photo on social media may seem inconsequential, but small actions build upon each other to make transformational change.”

The emotional yet educational day closed with students dipping their hands in red paint and placing them on the body of one of the therapy horses that reside on campus. The handprints symbolize the voices of the women and girls silenced by sex trafficking.

Staff mental health counselors worked with students before, during and after the event. For ways to provide protective factors for youth, so they don’t become vulnerable to this crime, visit sjiskids.org/mind-spirit/counseling-services/counseling-resources/

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