FARGO, ND. (Valley News Live) - "I am a survivor of missing and murdered indigenous girls,” said Sheila North, an advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women. “I was almost taken off of the streets a few times, more than once, in Winnipeg simply for being native, simply for being vulnerable and not being aware of my surroundings."
At the 9th Annual Human Rights Summit in Fargo, North took the stage to discuss missing and murdered indigenous women. These summits are hosted each year to educate people on human rights topics and discuss potential changes in our community.
“I only survived out of the grace of God,” North said. “It wasn’t anything special for me. It was just something that finally somehow I managed to leave the situation.”
She shares her stories of fear and abuse as an indigenous woman, and she says she was subjected to racism and bigotry.
But North decided she would stand up for herself as well as other women in her situation.
“It made me feel that when I had left that I had to help other women create awareness and other avenues to get out to find healing and prosperity,” North said.
She began down the path as a journalist where she says she learned more about missing and murdered indigenous women.
She said the case of a 16-year-old girl murdered on the outskirts of Winnipeg was the turning point.
“I felt an obligation happily but also sadly to accept the challenge to speak out and work hard to be an ally,” North said.
She began advocating for these women and spreading the message of their struggles in hopes of change within the community but also within policy.
“It seemed like there have been an attack on indigenous women and girls for many generations, and it has to stop at some point," North said.
There have been moments of triumph like Savanna's Act recently receiving approval from the U.S. Senate's Committee on Indian Affairs.
This is a federal bill aimed at addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.
She says she sees the momentum for creating a better world for indigenous women to live in.
“We are more than just victims, we are victors in a lot of ways, and I want to promote and encourage women to persevere and to find things that they have always wanted to do,” North said.
North says she's excited to see movement within our government to make a change.
Information on Savanna’s Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1942