5th Annual CAM™ & Red Sands MMIW/R Event

Healing for Our Sisters, Survivors, Helpers, Healers, Protectors & Community 


HIR Theme: Calling In our Relatives to Heal

This year’s event is about addressing the vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, toxic stress, and moral injury that occurs when personal healing intersects community loss and grieving. We are calling you into our Circle of Care™ - it's your time to be supported in community care. This year we will be hosting our event virtually and in-person. Our event is to remind our relatives to take care of themselves, their mental health, and wellness as they stand on the frontlines of MMIW/R activism, advocacy, and outreach. If you are not doing well (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually) the energy and intention that you bring to the causes that you support will drain you vs. feed you. Leaving you fatigued, anxious, and unrested vs. hopeful, inspiring, and innovating for long-lasting change.

Our relatives will journey through a healing-informed social justice walk while creating their own medicine kit to take with them and practice. We will identify our community protectors (guardians) and will have inspirational Indigenous speakers and host our CAMPsite™ (mental health warm support) onsite and via HIPAA compliant Zoom platform for drop-in connections with our team of counseling interns. We will be announcing our 2021 MANA Scholarship recipient, a survivor of violence and who is on their healing journey. We will close our event with our silent vigil and pouring of the red sands onto the land to bring the unseen to the seen world: creating visibility of the voices silenced, unheard, and forever gone. As we pour the red sands onto the land our relatives will be able to walk by the "Red Dress" project brought to us by a young Oneida sister and finally to walk to the fire that will be going during the entire event to put their prayers and to gather.


Often those who have been through trauma go into professions that help others heal from their trauma. It makes sense that this happens because "you understand" and "get it". As a survivor and women-led organization, we understand this story all to well. The risk comes to thrivers helping survivors is that  our stories intersect with those who we are serving and their stories. Learning how to deal with the way stress, hurt, fear, and trauma resides in our bodies allows us to release it, to process it, and to heal it. Creating safe spaces doesn't mean discomfort, dis-ease, or disagreements won't happen. It means learning to work through these feelings with others as we build trust, vulnerability, and reciprocity.  Join us and explore ways to heal your inner world.  

"Safety is not the absence of threat, it is the presence of connection"


- Gabor Mate


HIR Story: A Call to Action 

In 2017, our first CAM™ & Red Sands MMIW event was the vision of our founder & CEO Lea S. Denny who recognized complex loss and grief from the impact of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), suicide, homicide, and overdose. She saw a connection to all of these losses as interconnected to historical trauma. She felt passionately that in order to heal, not only do we need awareness and advocacy for the victims, we also need a way for our communities to grieve and heal. From this she developed and coined the term Community Activated Medicine™ (CAM™). The heart-work of CAM™ is "Inform to activate healing" and "the people are the medicine".


The CAM™ & Red Sands event was a call-to-action around the epidemic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). This event was created for collective grieving and community healing. It was Denny's belief that when community comes together to grieve, honor, remember, and share culture as medicine that we address not only the individuals’ mental health but our community's mental health needs. The Red Sands Project is an international creative activism earthwork that raises awareness, vulnerability, and social justice action around human trafficking (labor & sex trafficking). Bridging the concepts of CAM™ & Red Sands project together created a space to bring healing, land, and the unseen together. Today the CAM™ & Red Sands event has grown into an annual event that brings our relatives intergenerationally together to practice Community Activated Medicine™ (CAM™) healing-informed practices.


"In shifting our language to being trauma informed and healing informed, grounded in my research around Indigenous historical and intergenerational trauma, understanding Persistent Toxic Systems and Environments™ (PTSE™), it was evident that we must change our mental health language to decolonize mental health.


"Clients = Consumer = Commodity

"Relatives = Connection = Community


"If connection is currency, then relationships are priceless."


- Lea S. Denny 

Check out images from our last healing CAM™ events below!

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3rd CAM™ and Red Sands Event
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3rd CAM™ and Red Sands Event
4th CAM™ and Red Sands Event - MANA Award
4th CAM™ and Red Sands Event - MANA Award

Addressing MMIW/R Through Mental Health & Social Justice 

Since 2017, we have had the commitment to raise awareness and serve Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIW/R) who are victims, survivors, their families, and communities. This is done through mental health services (counseling, occupational therapy, and wellness programming), advocacy, outreach, trainings, CAM™ events, and policy change. The root causes of the epidemic of MMIW/R are directly connected to the colonization of Indigenous communities. We recognize this in the patriarchy of our systems, commodification of our lands and bodies, the historical trauma that ensued from residential boarding schools, damaging policies and broken treaties (displacement, relocation, urbanization), sterilization of Native women, and loss of culture (language, traditions, and connecting children to elders). The losses have carried forward creating intergenerational and transgenerational trauma and adversity. The impact of historical trauma and unresolved grief can manifest in a multitude of ways (individual, social, environmental, and collective). Decolonizing mental health means going beyond the label of individual diagnoses and addressing more systemic and intergenerational experiences of Persistent Toxic Systems and Environments™ (PTSE™) as coined by Lea S. Denny. 

“Trauma in a person, decontextualized over time, looks like personality.
Trauma in a family, decontextualized over time, looks like family traits.
Trauma in a people, decontextualized over time, looks like culture."

—Resmaa Menakem


There is hope, healing, and tremendous strength in our Indigenous communities and kinship, gatherings, and community is the backbone to our wellness. Positive, compassionate, relational, and predictable experiences can alter the impact that trauma has had on us. At HIR Wellness Institute (HIRWI) this includes our Intergenerational Healing Approach™ (IHA™) and CAM Framework™ developed by our CEO & Founder, Lea S. Denny. Through our IHA™ and CAM™ approach we provide immediate crisis care and stabilization, intensive trauma-treatment, grief healing circles, and search and rescue efforts as identified by our missing relatives’ families. The work is heavy-hearted and individualized with careful consideration on the needs of our relatives and creating a Circle of Care™ for them through our Intergenerational Healing Approach™. Mental health is an essential need for the victims we serve. Most of our relatives who are MMIW/R have had a lifetime of hurt that has impacted their self-worth, identify, coping, and choices. This is often a result of complex and developmental trauma that can result in Complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). At HIRWI we create spaces to heal through our therapeutic web of services and community care. 

Our leadership team serves on the Wisconsin MMIW State Task Force including our CEO & Clinical Director Lea S. Denny who is on the "Research & Data" subcommittee, our Community Engagement & Indigenous Affairs Director Jamie Kellicut who is on the "Systems" Subcommittee, and our HIRWI Board Treasure Skye Alloway who is the Co-Chair for the Task Force. 

As part of our work we are on the Tracking Our Truth Project with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee along with community partners across the state who serve Indigenous/Native Victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sex trafficking and MMIW/R. Our role in this project we provide culturally-specific legal advocacy and certified our lead Native Legal Advocate through the National Tribal Trial College. In addition, we provide financial advocacy, emotional support, CARES Victims Warmline (414-748-2592), crisis stabilization, and care services. This includes court accompaniment, filing restraining orders, Safe At Home, coordination of resources, securing housing, providing emergency funds, and relocation. HIRWI is also part of the "We Are Here MKE" initiative to raise awareness on culturally specific programs serving victims of violence. 


Community Grieving for Community Healing 

Grieving is not done alone; it takes a community to hold space for the mourned. This is not done over a few days, it takes continued space to cope with the loss, heartache, confusion, shock, and disbelief. Grief is complex. It can be connected to losing a person in your life and it can also be connected to losing something that you are deeply missing in your life or community. Grief can't always be easily identified and can be disenfranchised, anticipated, and unresolved. The symptoms of grief and loss can look like depression, anxiety, lack of focus, loss of motivation, hypervigilance, disconnection, heightened emotional or arousal responses, and avoidance; to name some of the ways grief and loss surface within us. There may even be unseen parts of your grief that you hide from others and yourself. 

When grief has hit an entire family or community from MMIW/R, suicide, homicide, overdose, or illness it is often coupled with other countless unforgiving losses, this can become a collective grief. Although this affects everyone differently it is felt as a people. Our goal at HIRWI is to hold space for our relatives to grieve, heal their hearts, foster relationships, and improve their community wellness. This is CAM™