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To end all violence

Photo by Monica Nillson
Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue dancers at the first Indigenous Women’s March held on May 11. Over 200 people participated in support of ending violence.

Native community gathers for first Indigenous Women’s March on May 11

By CAMILLE GAGE

2018 was a challenging year for the Native community, but also a time when Indigenous people and their allies came together to form new alliances, friendships and future plans. 

The Franklin Hiawatha encampment and Minneapolis Navigation Center were major catalysts for these new relationships. They brought people together to care for our unsheltered relatives and imagine a future where everyone had access to a safe place to sleep, health care, mental health care, and chemical dependency treatment. 

Many of the people who spent time at the camp, either as volunteers or as employees of groups like Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, American Indian Community Development Corporation, WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each Other, Simpson Housing, or Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, were women. And sometimes these women, and their Two Spirit colleagues, faced harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence. 

Working together under such difficult conditions it was natural that these women and Two Spirits began to forge friendships. They came together to support each other – and after months of harassment and threats – to say in a united voice, “No more!”

Soon meetings were being held to discuss ways to proactively take on the issue of harassment of women and Two Spirit people. The conversations widened and began to include intimidation and violence aimed at ALL people; it didn’t make sense to advocate for just one or two groups of people when so many suffer from violence, both directly, as victims and survivors, and indirectly, in the myriad ways violence hurts our loved ones and traumatizes our community. 

Photo by Monica Nillson
March organizer Stephanie Stewart.

Thus the Indigenous Women’s March was born.  Organized by an ad hoc group of women and Two Spirits who had experienced intimidation and harassment, the march was held on Saturday, May 11, 2019 with participants marching from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center to Little Earth of United Tribes. There it joined the annual Little Earth Mother’s Day Pow Wow. 

Photo by Monica Nillson
March organizer Jase Rose (left), with the Eagle Staff created for the march, with Mo Mike of Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Over 200 people participated to support the march’s stated mission of ending violence in all its forms. 

As a Native-led march, the organizers acknowledge the disparate impact of violence on the Indigenous community – both in the thousands of missing and murdered Native women in the United and Canada, and in the high rates of domestic violence, rape and assault.  

The Indigenous Women’s March differentiated itself from the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March by casting a wider net: both Native and non-Native women were welcome and acknowledged. And the Indigenous Women’s Marchers made the strong statement that it does not have to be a serious crime like murder for the community to pay attention; intimidation, harassment, and threats of violence are real and cause real harm to individuals and our community. 

In the words of Angelique Morgan-Voss: “When I saw Jase (a Two Spirit march organizer) holding the eagle staff I cried tears of happiness. I will remember this march for the rest of my life. The love and positivity was overwhelmingly beautiful. To see so many women who knew what I was going through come together in solidarity lifted my spirit high. I want my daughters to know that violence against women – and all people – is not okay.”

Photo by camille gage
Signs supporting women and calling for an end to violence in all its forms were held by over 200 marchers during the first Indigenous Women’s March held on May 11.

The Indigenous Women’s March organizers have pledged to make the march an annual event, a safe place where survivors can come together in solidarity. They believe there is great strength in numbers – and hope that real change will happen when we speak with one voice against the violence that plagues our community. 

Stephanie Stewart said, “I’m so proud of everyone that came together for the first Indigenous Women’s March. Despite the ongoing harrassment, threats and abuse, we were able to rise above it all and organize a positive event that aims to end violence in all forms. Led by women, children and Two Spirits, the march was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever participated in!”

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