First Indigenous Women’s March empowers survivors, offers support

May 11, 2019 07:30 PM

Dozens of people came together in Minneapolis on Saturday to take a stand against violence and empower survivors of abuse.

The first Indigenous Women’s March was a celebration of strength and a sign of resilience, according to those in attendance.


“We’re just tired of it,” said Fawn Mason, of Red Lake Nation. “We have our voice and we're going to use it.”

Mason lives in Minneapolis and said harassment and assault were often discussed growing up.

“But it always seemed like table talk and then last year it started getting really bad,” she said. “We need to speak about the violence as a whole, you know, not just against women, also children, also against the men.”

She marched with at least 100 people from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center to Little Earth of United Tribes.

“It is to strengthen the community, to strengthen the people,” said Mason. “People are actually scared to speak up.”

Children and elders led the walk, which was about a mile long.

Organizers said it was originally inspired by the harassment which community leaders said they saw at the Hiawatha homeless encampment and later at the navigation center.

The message was expanded to address all violence and oppression.

“We’re not alone. We do have each other and we need to hold each other accountable,” said Mason.

For Patina Park, the executive director the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, it was also an opportunity to change the perception of the community.

“We're so often stuck in deficit and trauma, and so often you hear about heroin and overdoses and homelessness,” she said.  “There’s a lot of strength and resilience and positives. There's so much love in the community.”

Park shared a message of hope, pledging the walk will become an annual event.

“We’re still here and we're not those sad stories. There is so much beauty here,” she said.

The march ended with a Mother’s Day powwow. It comes just days after the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force legislation. 

 More from KSTP:Lawmakers to discuss creating Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, said 56% of native women experience violence in their lifetime.

“I actually burst into tears when I saw on Facebook it had passed,” said Park. “We do a lot of outreach on Lake Street and there's a lot of women and boys and men who are exploited. I like to remind people, someone is missing them there. The phenomena of missing indigenous people is happening right now in the city.”

“Whatever we can do to start doing to raising that awareness and start addressing that with solutions, is exciting.”

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Callan Gray

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