Last Real Indians

Indigenous Women Reflect on Women’s March, Highlight MMIW & Discuss Next Steps

At this years Women’s March, Indigenous Women across Turtle Island organized in numerous cities and brought Tribal issues, environmental issues and the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women to the forefront.

Last Real Indians editor Matt Remle reached out to one of the organizers of Olympia WA event, Kyle Taylor Lucas, to learn more about their rally and what future efforts they are planning.

Kyle Taylor Lucas

At a time when all that is sacred is threatened around us, it was our honor as the Urban Indigenous Circle to organize and participate in this year’s Women’s Rally and March in Olympia. We are grateful to the Olympia Women’s Rally and March planning committee for ensuring that Indigenous peoples were featured in both. After the march, we also gathered at Heritage Park for a beautiful ceremony to name and honor MMIW and survivors with prayer and song.

After generations of oppression and trauma, we Natives know it takes many hands and generous hearts to heal ourselves and our peoples. So, we came together in a good way to work with our non-Native sisters on behalf of all the people, but especially to support Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and their survivors. We also felt it critical to stand in solidarity with our Puyallup Tribal brothers and sisters, so we named them and the courageous battle they’re waging to save their people and lands from the foreign-owned Puget Sound Energy ticking time-bomb Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) construction project on their sacred lands. I was humbled to serve as emcee and to honor all the good work being done by women and for women and their families in our community. However, I devoted most of my time to remembering our MMIW and speaking to NoLNG in my introductory remarks.

In addition to supporting all the inspired speakers on the agenda speaking to women’s and LGBTQ rights, environmental and social justice, and human rights, it was my great honor to introduce Puyallup Tribal cultural and spiritual leader Connie McCloud who spoke passionately about MMIW and whose very inspirational prayer lifted every heart of the thousands present on the Capitol grounds.

We were then deeply moved by the rally’s headline speaker, Squaxin Tribal Vice Chairwoman, Charlene Krise, who spoke so eloquently of her people’s teachings—to protect our Mother Earth, about how precious our water and waterways are, and the importance of protecting our sacred salmon. She also addressed the tragedy of MMIW and urged everyone’s attention to address it.

Those present were then gifted impassioned words to care for one another, to protect our Mother Earth, and a moving prayer from Quileute Tribal member Elizabeth Satiacum who is co-host with husband Robert Satiacum of Tribal Talk Radio on KLAY 1180 A.M. For the past eight years they have also hosted the annual American Indian Lobby Day at the State Capitol, that helps ensure tribal issues are not an after-thought.

Thousands were then treated to the powerful drumming and singing of both the Squaxin Island Drum Group led by Joe Seymour and the Nisqually Absch Drum Group led by Sancho Walters.

As MC, I also took a point of personal privilege to acknowledge the presence and to gift our beloved elder, Joan Staples-Morin, who was the founder of the Tacoma Indian Center. She was recognized for her selfless commitment to countless urban Indians who found comfort at the center and the many more countless lives she’s saved over the years in maintaining that place of refuge for those far from home or displaced.

Following the rally, the Oly Embrace march organizers lined the march behind the Indigenous women who carried a beautiful MMIW banner and individual signs with names of MMIW to honor those who’ve journeyed on or who are still missing. Local Indigenous women were especially honored to be joined by Pamela Cəlalákəm Bond, Snohomish Tribe, who led the women in the Women’s Warrior Song. We were also so grateful to be joined by Paul Cheoketen Wagner, Saanich Tribe, whom we all hold dear. Together, their strong drum and voices led the Indigenous marchers’ voices to fill the sky with love—both on the march and at the MMIW honoring in the park. As survivors, my family and I were deeply moved by the prayers and loving words and support offered by Pamela and Paul and all who gathered in spirit to honor our missing and murdered loved ones.

What are some next steps for our Urban Indigenous Circle?

We will continue to focus attention and energies on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). As a survivor, I lost my courageous little mom, Clara Evelyn Nali, full-blood Nlaka’Pamux Nation (Cooks Ferry and Lytton Bands), B.C., in 1988. She was a survivor of the brutal residential school, St. Georges, where she was imprisoned until age 18 and where she saw her sister die, so hers was a lifetime of trauma. Those of we who’ve worked in Indian Country realize how critical it is for those engaging on these sensitive issues to be self-actualized, conscientious, and mindful individuals. So, we’ll be exploring potential ways to ensure those self-identifying as leaders possess the sensitivity to ensure survivor safety.

Bigger picture, we are excited to be moving forward on realization of a decade-long dream of mine and that is the feting of an Urban Indian Center here in Olympia. We have a significant population of Urban Indigenous who are separated from their communities, some temporarily and many for their lifetimes. We want to ensure they have a place of welcome, of support, and to gather with other Natives in sharing culture and spirit. There will be more to come on that, but we are very excited to have considerable support from some wonderful allies. So, the year ahead will be an exciting and hopeful one. Our Urban Indigenous women were also grateful for the advice and support of Colleen Jollie, Turtle Mountain Chippewa descendant, who brought great experience from having served on last year’s Women’s March Olympia organizing committee” –Kyle Taylor Lucas, The Tulalip Tribes & Nlaka’Pamux Nation (Cooks Ferry & Lytton Bands) B.C.

*The Urban Indigenous Circle has about 15 members who are living in the community and committed to building our circle of support for urban Indians. Added Lucas, “I am especially grateful to our members Millie Kennedy, Marles Black Bird, and Tina Stevens, who brought generous and loving spirits and who were tireless in working with me to ensure we had an Indigenous presence in the Olympia Women’s March.”

Response from other Indigenous Women involved in the Olympia rally and march

As a Native American woman, who is Tsimshian, I was very proud to listen to three powerful Indigenous women from these lands speak about protecting Mother Earth, getting out the Native Vote and MMIW. Moreover, I was emotionally proud of my dear friend Kyle “Raven” Lucas do an amazing job emceeing the main rally. DOYax~shin! Thank you to the Olympia Women’s March Planning Committee for allowing all these powerful Native Women to speak.” —Millie Kennedy, Tsimshian

The highlight for me was how powerful and engaging the indigenous women spoke about how important clean water is to us all, to the animals and to the sacred salmon, and for reminding the community we are still here—that we are all human beings in this together. Our sister organizer, Kyle Taylor Lucas was amazing as the MC. She really got the crowd going and brought awareness to the MMIW and to NoLNG253.” – Marles Black Bird, Hunkpapa Lakota

I was proud to be involved in the Indigenous women’s preparation for the honoring of MMIW after the march. As we are survivors having lost my grandmother, I found the honoring in the park with storytelling, singing and drumming, by Pamela Cəlalákəm Bond and Paul Cheoketen Wagner, as well as the reading of the names of the MMIW by mother, very comforting and healing. I am grateful to all who helped make it happen. Going forward, we will continue this work to end MMIW, to honor those we’ve lost, and we’ll keep searching for the missing.

It was also moving to see so many women (and men) from all walks of life coming together to support and uplift one another and to gain awareness about each other’s causes and concerns especially during these dark days. It’s been said that “it’s a man’s world,” but the truth is that it hasn’t been working. We are mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore! That was one of my observations for the day, that we are standing up for our own sakes, for our kids, for our grandkids, and for our planet.”
Tina Stevens, Snohomish Tribe & Nlaka’Pamux Nation (Cooks Ferry & Lytton Bands) B.C.

Photos from Olympia – Indigenous Women’s MMIW & NoLNG253 Rally & March

Connie McCloud offering prayer

Squaxin Tribal Vice Chairwoman Charlene Krise

State Rep. Beth Doglio thanked all the tribal nations for their continuing leadership on environmental issues (Connie McCloud and Charlene Krise in the background)

Nisqually Squally Absch Drum Group

Elizabeth Satiacum & Joan Staples-Morin

Joe Seymour and Squaxin Tribal Singers