By Lyndsey Brollini
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The sound of drums to the Women Warrior song beat through everyone’s ears who observed the Women’s March on Jan. 20.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) led the march in an effort to call attention to what it said is an epidemic of violence against indigenous women. Spectators saw the indigenous community dressed in red to honor MMIW, while others wore pink hats. The MMIW awareness aims to find justice and highlight cases that don’t get the proper attention from the public, law enforcement, and government.
The families of MMIW led the march with the Indigenous Sisters Resistance. A ceremony before the march started at 9 a.m. at Cal Anderson park to honor the indigenous women taken from their families.
After the ceremony, the indigenous community lined up at the front to begin the march. People wore their roaches, cedar hats, and other regalia. Drums and rattles were brought to play throughout the march. The smell of sage carried through the air.
Senji Kanaeda, a Japanese Buddhist monk living on Bainbridge Island, brought his uchiwa daiko drum to the march and drummed with the other indigenous people to the beat of the Women Warrior song. His friend Gilberto Perez, who was born in Cuba and grew up in New York City, joined him. They, among other allies, marched to support these women whose voices are often silenced or not heard.
“Women’s march is a very significant event for me because of their possibility to realize world peace,” said Kanaeda.
“Indigenous people’s past and their historical sufferings and experiences had been connected to the character and foundation of the U.S. I believe their wish and prayer should be at center if America will realize peace and nonviolence.”
Once the march started, the crowd moving in from all sides separated people in the indigenous community, as they tried to move towards the front to join the rest of their group.
“I felt like a lot of people didn’t understand that the intention was to have indigenous people lead [the march],” said Bethany Narita, a Yonsei 4th generation Japanese American.
Some security members guided the indigenous people to the front, while others linked arms and weaved through the crowd.
Narita and fellow marchers saw the fight to get back to the front as representative of the struggle for indigenous voices to be heard.
Last year, Narita marched with a contingent of women of color and families organized by a Filipino organization and other Asian American organizations. She has been very intentional about marching with people of color.
Both years, Narita carried a sign saying, “Not your model minority.” While she recognized that as a “model minority,” she may have more opportunities than other minorities, there is still a perpetual mindset that she is a foreigner.
One sign reading “Immigrants make America great” had Narita thinking about her dual role of welcoming new people, but also respecting the people of this land.
“How do you stand with immigrants, but also recognize we’re on stolen land and support indigenous people?” said Narita.
Kanaeda agreed. “This issue must be connected to their history and situation.”
It was important for Narita to recognize the land and whose it really was, and marching with the indigenous community was her way of showing support.
“As a Japanese American woman,” said Narita, “I try to stand in solidarity with other communities of color that have seen oppression.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who tweeted a selfie with other marchers, posted that it was inspiring to see so many marchers out for the second year in a row, calling it a “year of action.”
Seattle police say the event was mostly peaceful. One man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.
Lyndsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.