A day after the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, Indigenous Women Rise marched with hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children to stand for justice in Washington, D.C. As we made our way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, we began to sing the women’s warrior song, which is about strength, determination, and love for our people.
As we marched down Constitution Avenue, we were confronted by thick crowds. There were a few times when the crowd instinctively opened in front of us, to make way for us, asking “Are you leading the march?” People cheered, many had tears, some sang with us. It was a rare moment of visibility from our sisters and allies, an opportunity to be seen for who we are, the medicine we bring, and the ancestors that were walking with us. We marched with dignity, knowing we are protecting Mother Earth, our communities, and our peoples. We were telling the world: We exist, we resist, we rise.
Indigenous Women Rise is a collective of Indigenous women from throughout the country that organized an Indigenous women’s presence at the Women’s March on Washington. One thousand Indigenous women gathered with us in D.C., along with 32 Indigenous delegations within sister marches across the country.
It was a day in which Indigenous women stood together. We said we have led in these lands since time immemorial and we are taking our rightful place to do that, just as our grandmothers before us. This current system and worldview of people and resource exploitation is not working, and we are rising to offer another way. In the era of this new administration, we know we have valuable teachings to offer. They are teachings that have ensured that these lands have been protected and sustained for generations.
While we chanted “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life!” we were clear about all that is at stake for Native peoples: clean water, protection of sacred lands, and our very right of existence. Trump and his administration are challenging tribal sovereignty by contesting the right of tribes to provide prior and informed consent to development projects that threaten the health and well-being of our communities. If sovereignty is under attack, so is every other right held by Native Nations and peoples.
The historic march brought together people of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds during an unprecedented era in which everyone’s rights are at stake in the United States. Indigenous Women Rise stands with all communities under attack. We need cross-community and cross-issue alliances. We must not – we cannot – sit idle. We must stand in protection of our future generations, just as all of those who did before us.
We, at Indigenous Women Rise, believe there are four things you can do to help:
1. Give Indigenous Peoples a seat at the table.
The First Peoples of the United States represent 2 percent of the country’s population, at approximately 5 million people. More than 70 percent of our communities live off-reservation in cities and suburbs. Because of our small population, compared with other communities, Native peoples are often a very invisible community. Even in progressive social justice circles, Native peoples are marginalized, not invited in, ignored. Some people say that it is our responsibility to make ourselves seen and heard. While we agree, and do initiate action, it is often not received. Our participation often feels tokenized. The next time you plan a local march, action or event, reach out to local tribes and Native organizations in your area. Ensure they have a seat at the decision-making table.
2. Learn about local sacred sites protection issues
There was a necessary groundswell of support for the movement at Standing Rock. Yet, cities making proclamations in solidarity with Standing Rock are some of the same cities responsible for desecration of sacred sites and resource extraction issues in their home communities. If you care about Standing Rock, support sacred sites and Indigenous water and land rights issues in your backyard, because #StandingRockisEverywhere. Standing Rock is a catalyst to a much broader fight to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and to invest in a clean energy future.
3. Support Indigenous women’s leadership
There is a wave of Indigenous women’s leadership in elected offices throughout the country. This wave is bringing our traditional value systems and knowledge to governance systems. Yet, we need more Indigenous women in these positions. Learn more about the importance of increasing the number of Native Americans in political office by staying up to date with the new project Advance Native Political Leadership.
4) Stay Connected