Native women are going missing at epic rates. A 19-year-old wants you to know why.

Some college students spend their spring break partying in the Caribbean. This student walked 80 miles in four days to help Native American women.

Marita GrowingThunder, a freshman at University of Montana, walked 20 miles per day across the Flathead Indian Reservation from March 25 to 28. The goal of her “Save Our Sisters” walk? To raise awareness about violence against native women.

[rebelmouse-image 19534246 dam="1" original_size="960x688" caption="Marita GrowingThunder (third from left) and supporters of her 80-mile walk through the Flathead Indian Reservation. Photo via Save Our Sisters MMIW/Facebook." expand=1]Marita GrowingThunder (third from left) and supporters of her 80-mile walk through the Flathead Indian Reservation. Photo via Save Our Sisters MMIW/Facebook.


The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement, or #MMIW, spans across the U.S. and Canada, where indigenous women face disproportionate levels of violence. According to the CDC, in the U.S., indigenous women and black women are nearly tied for the demographic with the highest murder rate. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for indigenous women ages 10 to 24.

In Canada in 2015, a quarter of all women murdered were indigenous — a sharp increase from 9% in 1980, which was still disproportionately high.

One last photo from the display yesterday #MMIW #saveoursistersmmiw

A post shared by Marita GrowingThunder Fogarty (@maritagrowingthunder) on

GrowingThunder, who is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux tribe, had two aunts who were murdered. “I haven’t met a family who this hasn’t impacted,” she told Montana Public Radio.

What GrowingThunder is saying echoes what I've heard from my Native American friends and acquaintances. But many Americans remain unaware that this crisis even exists. We tend to place our country’s terrible treatment of Native Americans in the distant past, despite ongoing injustices and struggles caused by colonization.

Marita GrowingThunder is only 19, but she has been using her body, her voice, and her creativity to support the MMIW movement since long before spring break.

In fall 2016, GrowingThunder undertook a project to create and wear a different dress each day of her senior year of high school to honor native women who have been lost or killed.

Just a handful of the 180 dresses Marita GrowingThunder made and wore during her senior year. One dress per day — each honoring a missing or murdered indigenous woman. Photos via Save Our Sisters MMIW/Facebook.

People across the Native American community donated supplies for her sewing project in the name of specific women and families affected by the crisis. GrowingThunder dedicated each dress, about 180 in all, to a different specific missing or murdered indigenous woman.

GrowingThunder is a soft-spoken but self-assured young woman who believes young people can make a difference. "The youth have a lot of power," she says. "Not just politically, but just for humanity in general. I didn't realize I had this much power... I think people underestimate their own power."

You can hear her speak about her activism in this video:

GrowingThunder completed the 80-mile walk in 2017 as well, and both times she received a mixed response from American locals. She has been spit on, yelled at, and flipped off by people driving by. But others have offered water and kind words of encouragement.

The purpose of the walks is to honor and remember the countless women affected by this violence. But GrowingThunder also wants to draw attention to the fact that there is no database to track how many indigenous women are missing or who have been killed. Because there's no central data, statistics are sketchy and no one actually knows the exact extent of the issue. The Government Accountability Office has stated that investigations are needed to better report on trafficking within Native American populations.

Information is key. So is awareness, followed by action.

[rebelmouse-image 19534248 dam="1" original_size="641x428" caption="Photo via Save Our Sisters MMIW/Facebook." expand=1]Photo via Save Our Sisters MMIW/Facebook.

Feel inspired to help? Here’s how all of us can support the MMIW movement.

This issue is multifaceted, but there are a lot of real ways to help.

Encourage your legislators to support Savannah’s Act. This bill bolsters the data tracking of missing and murdered Native Americans, standardizes law enforcement and justice protocols, and requires the Department of Justice to provide training and technical assistance to tribes and law enforcement to implement new protocols.

Support the Red Ribbon Alert project. Since there’s no database tracking missing and murdered indigenous women, this project offers an alert system for when a Native American woman goes missing. Like their Facebook page and share missing women alerts from your area.

[rebelmouse-image 19534249 dam="1" original_size="700x350" caption="Images via Red Ribbon Alert Project/Facebook." expand=1]Images via Red Ribbon Alert Project/Facebook.

Get to know the tribes near you. Start by learning about them, and follow the social media accounts of local tribes to find out about what's happening in their communities. Attend public events and get to know people. (In the interest of cultural sensitivity, you may want to check out articles with advice from Native American people before you go.)

Learn about domestic violence and support organizations that support victims. As with other female demographics, murder stats of Native American women are strongly connected with domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline launched the StrongHearts Native Helpline specifically for indigenous populations, and they offer helpful information about supporting all domestic violence victims. You can donate to the hotline here.

Understand how the oil, gas, and other extraction industries affect human trafficking in Native American communities. Joye Braun, member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network, explains that the "man camps" set up to build pipelines, such as Keystone XL, threaten the communities, women, and children.

"Apart from the huge environmental crisis this pipeline would bring," Braun says, "it would threaten the very lives of our people with sex trafficking, drugs, violence, and death." We can learn more about these issues, offer our own voices in protest, and advocate for alternative energy sources.

Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance marched on horseback to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It's no secret that Native Americans have suffered at the hands of white supremacy and colonization through all of our country's history. But by amplifying voices like Marita GrowingThunder's, we can take inspiration from her story and her walk. And we can honor her 80-mile sacrifice by doing our part.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.

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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

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Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.

A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

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