Shawl Stories Project Honors Native Women

Photograph of memorial shawls hanging on a wall.With the national spotlight on teen dating violence during the month of February, it is important to also recognize the alarmingly high rate at which Native women and girls experience intimate partner violence.  According to the US Department of Justice, Native women are 2.5 times more likely to experience violence than other women in the United States. Given the great need to call attention to this issue, FYSB and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program would like to acknowledge the efforts of advocates from the Maliseet Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center in Maine, who started the Shawl Project. 

Established in October 2006, the Shawl Project is a year-round initiative to both raise awareness and serve as a healing exercise for Native women and children survivors and victims of domestic and sexual violence.  Jane Root, Director of the Maliseet Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center, explains her motivation in founding the project:

“As shawls are held in high esteem by Native American women across Indian Country,  it seemed a most appropriate symbol. Each shawl is made by a survivor or in memory of a survivor [and] tells its own story. Many Tribal Domestic & Sexual Violence Programs across Indian Country have begun their own Shawl Story Projects since first introduced nationally in 2007.”

Unique colors symbolize the experience of different victims and survivors:

  • A blue shawl signifies childhood physical and/or sexual abuse
  • A yellow or beige shawl signifies domestic abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, sexual)
  • A red shawl signifies sexual abuse experienced as an adult
  • A white shawl honors those who died as a result of domestic and/or sexual violence
  • A brown shawl signifies abuse experienced as a result of the victim being a Native Woman

FYSB and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program are proud to support efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence against Native women.  The Shawl Project “was created to bear witness to the victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence against Native women and children; to foster and further the healing process for those who are survivors of violence or have lost a loved one to domestic violence; to educate, document, and raise our society’s awareness of the true extent and pervasiveness of violence against women and children; [and] to provide a nationwide network of support, encouragement, and information for other Tribal communities starting their own shawl projects.”

For more information and resources for Native American/Alaska Native women and domestic violence, please visit the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

For more information on how the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSP) supports programs for Native American and Alaska Native women, visit the FVPSP webpage on Tribes.