Lily Painter is using her platform to advocate for missing Indigenous people and to uplift her community through stories of strength and resilience

Current reigning Miss Indian Oklahoma Lily Painter (@herculilz) uses her title to advocate for missing Indigenous women through her organization Matriarch Medicine. Lily hails from the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and won the title of Miss Indian Oklahoma during her second year entering the pageant.

“Miss Indian Oklahoma acts as a goodwill ambassador for the 39 sovereign nations that exist in Oklahoma,” Lily explains. “So I represent all 39 tribes, including my own, the Kiowa Tribe. I speak at conferences; I go to our traditional dances; I go to conventions. Wherever they need me, I go, making sure that we’re given a seat at the table.”

Matriarch Medicine is a digital collective that provides space for healing for Indigenous people facing the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis. “Native women face some of the highest rates of violence in the country,” Lily says. “A lot of it goes undocumented. Murder, specifically, and violence is the third leading cause of death for Native women in the United States. Matriarch Medicine is where I found my ability to best highlight the issue.”

Lily, whose pageant talent was storytelling, finds that writing or any type of artistic expression is a positive way to process hardships. So she created Matriarch medicine as a space for Native young people to come together.

“I have found that writing or artistic expression – whether that’s poetry, filmmaking – is the way that I process. I thought that if I was a Native young person that was looking for a space like that, I should also provide a space for Native young people who are dealing with the same thing,” Lily says.

Storytelling goes into everything Lily does – whether it’s beadwork or creating clothing – and it flows into Matriarch Medicine. The goal of the collective is to tell a story that means something to everyone listening.

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