SALT LAKE COUNTY — The Elizabeth Smart Foundation (ESF) has shut down its latest campaign aimed at bringing more awareness to the “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” (MMIW) crisis.
The group MMIW USA said they were excited to team up with ESF, but they have now accused the foundation of exploiting their platform to serve their own interests.
Elizabeth Smart is shown on a video launching the week-long fitness challenge called “Find them all.”
Smart returned to her family in March of 2003, after being abducted for nine months. In this latest campaign, she pledges to find all women.
“There are so many who are never found — who are never even looked for. They just disappear and nothing ever happens. Unfortunately, none more so than Native and Indigenous women and girls," she said.
She explains that all proceeds will go toward the prevention and recovery of missing and Indigenous women.
“Because every single missing person deserves to come home.”
In a Facebook post, MMIW USA issued a warning to their supporters:
“We were approached by this organization to "collaborate" with them to "find all women." At first, of course we were excited that our anglo counterparts were showing an interest in aiding us. Our team initially spoke with a representative of their organization in order to get a feel for what they were trying to accomplish.
“Unfortunately, we were greeted with a condescending tone from a man who was culturally insensitive. In short, it seemed that their interest in helping us was grounded in a desire to self-promote and from a woman who had little knowledge of the #MMIW crisis; and displayed no interest in learning more about our struggle when it comes to finding and getting justice for our people.”
FOX 13 News reached out to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. They explained that they approached MMIW USA and several organizations to help provide content and people who could tell their story:
“In developing this initiative to find missing Native and Indigenous people, we conducted significant due diligence and research. This included working with several groups, including tribal councils, to direct us on how we could best help them find missing loved ones. Unfortunately, after launching the Find Them All campaign, we are saddened that despite our best efforts and several attempts to meet MMIW USA’s expectations, we have been unable to find common ground. Out of respect for them and all Native and Indigenous voices, and also to prevent the greater effort from being overshadowed, we are stepping back to find other ways to provide support. As a foundation, we will continue our work to end the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through prevention, recovery, and advocacy."
Despite the falling out, Indigenous activist and runner Jordan Daniel, who was included in the fitness challenge, says she believes the foundation means well.
Daniel says she was disappointed to hear about their issues with MMIW USA, but he would like to work with the ESF to find common ground.
The National Indigenous Women's Resource Center also weighed in with a statement to FOX 13:
“As a culturally based resource center dedicated to ending violence against Native women, the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center works with an extensive network of tribes, advocates, Native organizations and surviving families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). We are very intentional about the development of these partnerships due to the sensitive nature of our work. We have recently been introduced to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and are leaving the lines of communication open for conscientious and collaborative development of MMIWG awareness activities that elevate the voices of Indigenous advocates and families impacted by this violence.”