“Am I My Sister’s Keeper? Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” theme for 2022 Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium

January 1, 2023

Over the last two decades, dedicated Indigenous leaders, families, organizers, activists, and organizations have worked in vital ways to shine a light on the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic – and the thousands of women and girls who have been disappeared or murdered on Turtle Island (North America). Today, the movement is growing, not only to bring awareness to the issue, but also to create change in governmental and law enforcement systems that will finally begin to bring justice and prevent more stolen relatives. As we gather to learn more about MMIW and the movement to bring justice for our Indigenous sisters and the families who miss them, we ask how the Church might start to support these critical efforts.

During the hybrid 2022 Vine Deloria Jr Theological Symposium at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), presenters will talk about the intersection of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and theological/Christian education as well as the work being done across the United States to address this epidemic. Other+Wise and the Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations are co-sponsors of the symposium. 

Register here for the hybrid symposium on Nov. 15 and 16. The event will also be live-streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/user/VideosfromLSTC.

The first night of the symposium features an in-person keynote address from Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy (Oglala Lakota), Lutheran theologian, liturgist, teacher, and activist who will provide a theological response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis. The keynote is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 7-8:30 p.m. Central time.

Learning Lunches return to the symposium this year. There will be a Learning Lunch on Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 15 with Portia Skenandore Wheelock (Oneida), Congressional Advocate for Native American Advocacy Program and Friends Committee on National Legislation. The learning lunch will take place at 12 noon Central time.

There will be a second virtual Learning Lunch on Wednesday, Nov. 16 that begins at 12:30 p.m. The lunch will highlight Pamela Smith (Cherokee), as she shares her family’s ongoing struggle with the disappearance of her niece, Aubrey Dameron, who has been missing since March 9, 2019. Lunch will be provided to those in person on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday begins with worship, featuring Rev. Colleen Bernu (Ojibwe), Director of Evangelical Mission and Synod Minister for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, as the guest preacher. Worship will begin at 11:15 a.m. Central time.

The 2022 Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium concludes Nov. 16 with a 7 p.m. panel presentation with Roxanne White (Nez Perce), grassroots organizer and social justice advocate; Leann Guy (Diné), founding executive director of Southwest Indigenous Women’s Coalition; and Cherrah Giles (Muscogee and Cherokee), former Chairwoman of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Register here for the hybrid symposium on Nov. 15 and 16. The event will also be live-streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/user/VideosfromLSTC.


Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy

Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy (Oglala Lakota); Mato Wašté Winyan (Good Bear Woman), has grounded her life in the Holy Spirit and the deep spiritual practices intertwined between her Lakota identity and Christian beliefs. As a proud member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, Kelly dedicates her time to social justice, racial reparations, trauma and healing, and Storytelling. Kelly has a Doctoral degree in systematic theology from Luther Seminary. Her work focuses on Lakota Spirituality, history, and culture, and how these forms inform Christianity and move past trauma to healing. Kelly is also a liturgist, having written liturgies for the ELCA, Festival of Homiletics, and World Council of Churches to name a few.

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock (Oneida) manages the Native American Advocacy Program for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities. She chairs an interfaith working group on Native American issues, and advocates for legislation to address critical issues in Indian Country, such as the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the legacy of Indian boarding schools.

Pamela Smith (Cherokee)

Pamela Smith (Cherokee) is the Auntie of Missing Aubrey Dameron of Grove, Oklahoma and for the past 3 years, she has advocated for others who need help finding their loved one or seek justice for their Murdered relative in Indian country.

Colleen Bernu (Ojibwe)

Colleen Bernu (Ojibwe) is a Minister of Word and Service in the ELCA where she serves as Director for Evangelical Mission and Synod Minister for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Northeastern Minnesota Synod. Colleen, a descendant, first generation of the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, lives on the Fond Du Lac Indian Reservation with her family and considers Solon Springs, Wisconsin, on the traditional lands of her community, home. Colleen is a former teacher and is dedicated to using her training and experience to expand diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, bridging diverse communities through a process of truth-telling that promotes the formation of a common memory in order for communal healing to begin. 

Roxanne White (Nez Perce)

Roxanne White (Nez Perce) is a fearless and dedicated organizer and social justice advocate who has dedicated her work to Indian Country. She is a Nez Perce tribal member and a descendent of Yakama, Nooksack, and Gros Ventre. She is recognized nationally for her work on issues related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People and for her work with Native families and communities seeking justice and healing.

Leanne Guy (Diné)

Leanne Guy (Diné) is of the Tó’ áhani (Near to water) clan and is born for the Tódichi’ii’nii (Bitter Water) clan. Her chei (maternal grandfather) is from the Tábaahí (Waters Edge) clan, and her nali (paternal grandfather) is from the Tachii’nii (Red Running into the Water) clan. This is who she is as a Diné woman. She is a mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, and works for the betterment of tribal communities. Currently, Leanne is the founding executive director of the Southwest Indigenous Women’s Coalition, Arizona’s tribal domestic and sexual violence coalition. Prior to this, she was the executive director of a nonprofit, community-based domestic violence and sexual assault services program located on the Diné Nation.

Cherrah Giles (Muscogee and Cherokee)

Cherrah Giles (Muscogee and Cherokee) is from the Fuswvlke (Bird Clan) and Rekackv (Broken Arrow) Tribal Town. She has previously served over ten years as a legislator on the Muscogee National Council and to-date, she has been the youngest female at 24 years old, elected to the Council and first female elected as Second Speaker. Cherrah has also served her Tribal Nation as the first Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Community & Human Services and seated to the Muscogee Reservation Protection Commission. Cherrah is former Chairwoman of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), a non-profit organization created to serve as the national resource center to address domestic violence and enhance safety of indigenous women and their children.

Read the full presenter biographies here.

Learn more about Other+Wise at their Facebook page.


In 2013, the Annual American Indian and Alaska Native Symposium at LSTC was renamed in honor of Vine Deloria Jr., an alum of Augustana Seminary, Rock Island, Ill., a predecessor school of LSTC. The symposium has been held in November each year since it began over 10 years ago. It featured presentations, lectures, food, and cultural activities. Past keynote speakers include Elona Street Stewart (Delaware Nanticoke), Susan Kelly Power (Standing Rock Sioux), Rev. Dr. Gordon Straw (Brothertown Nation), Dr. Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi/Muskogee) and Prairie Rose Seminole (Three Affiliated Tribes of ND).


Dr. Linda Thomas

Professor of Theology and Anthropology Director of the Rev. Dr. Albert “Pete” Pero, Jr. And Rev. Dr. Cheryl Stewart Pero Center for Intersectionality Studies

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