Source: The Wenatchee World
By Gabriel Garcia
World staff writer
WENATCHEE — A Quinault Indian Nation teenager from Wenatchee turned a school project into a fundraiser for an organization that advocates for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
At his school, Pinnacles Prep, Ayden Itterley, 13, had to create a “passion project” for the last academic quarter of the year. The project was a presentation of a student’s passion with an educational impact.
He decided to share his passion for his Quinault and Native American culture and educate his school community about the many symbolisms of beaded earrings in his heritage. He made around 20 earrings for the project, and since created dozens more.
At the same time, he was writing a final essay about a social injustice of his choosing. The topic he chose was MMIW, as it is an issue facing his cultural community. The MMIW movement advocates the end of violence against Native American women, according to wernative.org.
It was a heavy topic for Ayden Itterley to study. He would tell his parents every time he learned a new fact, his mother Shannen Itterley said.
“It was very surprising and it hit me pretty hard,” Ayden Itterley said. “I’ve heard about it (MMIW), but had no idea that it went to such an extent to which it did.”
Washington was the state with the second-highest cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in a study of 29 states, at 71.
Seattle is the city with the highest number of MMIWG cases, 45, in a study of 71 cities across the country. Tacoma is at seventh, with 25 cases.
Murder is the third-leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Native women and girls 10 and older.
Itterley’s mother suggested he sell the earrings and donate the money to an organization that advocates for MMIW.
“The way that Ayden channels his emotion is through passion. He’s reading about it and he’s mad and like… ‘How do we fix this?,’” Shannen Itterley said. “That’s why this has been really good for him (the fundraiser) because that would had been a hard paper to write if he didn’t have a way to channel it.”
Itterley and his mom also made a GoFundMe page to sell earrings. He has raised about $800, which includes selling around 40 earrings from the page. The hoops are $20 and the dangles are $15.
“Originally, my passion project started out with me just wanting to be more connected with my Quinault Nation,” Ayden Itterley said. “It’s not just about the earrings anymore, it’s more about MMIW.”
His father David Itterley is a member of the Quinault Indian Nation and helped him make earrings to keep up with the orders.
David Itterley said he is proud of his son for embracing his culture and wanting to help others.
“It’s cool to see him doing all of this, creating the earrings and selling them for a good cause,” David Itterley said.
Ayden Itterley plans to continue helping people facing injustices for the rest of his life.
“I try to revolve my life around that,” he said. “That’s why I want to be a lawyer when I grow up.”
The organization Ayden Itterley chose is Native Hope, an Indigenous advocacy organization based in South Dakota, because its website is where he got the most information for his essay.
Iris Huezo, media director for Native Hope, said the donations will go to many programs that help:
- Families of MMIWs pay for funeral expenses.
- Advocates guiding families between tribal systems and government agencies.
- Train on how to report violent crimes on Indigenous people.
“It’s very touching,” Huezo said of Ayden Itterley. “He’s leading a great example.”