Moving America Forward

This Photographer Is Shining a Light on the Dignity of Indigenous Women

November 1, 2018
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This Photographer Is Shining a Light on the Dignity of Indigenous Women
Hallie Steiner
Native American women face up to 10 times more violence than the national average. One photographer is using her art to fight back.

Indigenous women face disproportionate levels of violence. 84 percent of them experience some form of violence during their lifetimes, and one study found that in certain regions, native women face murder rates more than 10 times the national average. One photographer is using her art to call attention to the issue — and, in her own way, fight back against it.

“People go missing on the reservation like it’s going out of style,” says Toni Roth, a photographer and resident of the Yakama Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Wash.

Roth has been a photographer for the last five years, but recently her work took on an entirely new meaning. In January, Roth started taking portraits of women and girls from the Yakama tribe decked out in their traditional regalia. The photos are striking — colorful, regal and almost ferocious — and she hopes they’ll drive awareness and action on the epidemic of missing and murdered native women.  

“I wanted to portray them in their natural state,” Roth says, “showing that these women are strong, they’re independent, they’re needed in their community [and] they’re just as important as anybody else.

“I feel like if more people brought light to the situation and took it seriously, then maybe more people would get involved, and actually realize that this is an epidemic,” Roth says. “This is real, and it’s something that needs to be taken care of.”

Watch the video above to see Roth’s work and find out how you can help fight the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.

If you have information on the whereabouts of missing individuals on the Yakama reservation, please contact the Yakima Police Department at 509-575-6200.

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