CHEROKEE, N.C. – Three women from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians sit in a sewing room every other Sunday to record stories of murdered and missing Indigenous women, an epidemic that has hit nearly every corner of Indian Country.
Sheyahshe Littledave, Maggie Jackson and Ahli-sha “Osh” Stephens collectively began a podcast in November 2021 to raise awareness and tell the stories of MMIW.
Littledave said a “Day of Awareness” took place on the Qualla Boundary last May and when the day was done, everyone went back to regular life.
“I wanted to find a way to keep the awareness going and wasn’t sure necessarily what it is that could be done,” said Littledave. “So, the idea was that maybe somebody should start a podcast, because I like true crime podcasts and that would be really cool to have somebody out there just constantly telling these stories. Then it turned into, if there’s none out there then why can’t someone here start it? Why can’t I start it?”
All three women are true crime podcast enthusiasts and started putting ideas together about how to present their own podcast from an Indigenous perspective called “We Are Resilient: A MMIW True Crime Podcast.”
“What was important for us was that if we were going to tell these stories that it be told from an Indigenous perspective,” said Littledave. “I think representation is super important especially when you consider the views on Indigenous people today. So, it was important for us as Indigenous women that we tell these stories, and we tell these stories in a way that people can understand the impact and how its viewed by Indigenous people today.”
Jackson said when they research stories, oftentimes there is just not a lot of documented information out there.
“Primarily our research comes from stuff that we find online,” said Jackson. “I think that’s kind of been our focus thus far not only because lack of media coverage is a constant issue with these pieces. We have some cases where there’s only one news article or no news articles and it’s just maybe cases on Facebook and that sort of thing.”
Jackson added that just sharing the names of the women and getting people in their local community involved in the conversations helps.
“We personally share a lot of cases on our social media and that’s been proven to be affective for cases,” said Jackson. “Just like the Gabby Petito case, that was basically how her case was solved. So, I would say that personally we all kind of take that active role. We just started having conversations with a group of local elders who have a great desire to bring awareness to the MMIW cases.”
The name of the podcast “We Are Resilient” came from Stephens and is a phrase that is synonymous with Indigenous people.
“We hear the stories about our ancestors, and we hear about our elders who were resilient in obstacles they faced because they faced many things to bring us to where we are today,” said Stephens. “I think in the epidemic that we’re in, in order to find a resolve or find some answers or bring justice and awareness to this issue, we have to be resilient.”
The podcast covers an array of Indigenous women who have gone missing and/or murdered and who hail from different tribes across the nation.
“The thing is, is there’s so many stories out there and there’s so many stories that have gone cold or they literally just happened,” said Littledave. “They’re months into somebody disappearing, and it’s just trying to find a sense of urgency to make sure these stories are getting out there and the attention they deserve.”
Stephens said they hope they can create a spark in local communities that others will speak up and speak out.
“Hopefully we can get a spark in the community that someone will speak up because someone knows something,” said Stephens. “In a lot of our cases we cover somebody knows something, especially around the circumstances of how these women have passed. It’s just challenging sometimes.”
Littledave said the main goal of the podcast is honor the women they talk about and be respectful when sharing their stories.
“So, we want to make sure we have as much information as possible, as much accurate information as possible,” said Littledave. “If we are able to get a family perspective that would be great, but at the same time we just want to make sure that people know that we have genuine intentions here. Our goal, if anything, is awareness but honor these women and be respectful.”
Episodes air every two weeks, with mini episodes airing in the off-week. For more information and to listen, visit We Are Resilient: A MMIW True Crime Podcast on Facebook or visit www.war-podcast.com.