Indigenous Women Join The March

By Lee Waters

Hundreds of thousands of women turned Washington’s National Mall into a sea of pink on Saturday, sending the first grassroots message of opposition to Donald Trump since he moved into the White House.

“Minority president”, “Women roar” and “I’m afraid” were among the signs waved by a crowd which was made up mostly of women but also comprised some men and which far exceeded turnout for Friday’s inauguration. Many wore pink handknit “pussy hats” – a rebuke to the billionaire businessman once caught on tape bragging about his ability to “grab” women “by the pussy”. Organisers estimated that more than a million people attended.

Also joining the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Saturday — and identifiable by turquoise silk scarves — was a collective of native groups coming together to support human rights and advance indigenous issues. Women who participated in what they called the Indigenous Women Rise: Women’s March on Washington were gifted a limited-edition “Women Warrior” scarf by L.A. designer Bethany Yellowtail. The silk scarf was a creative collaboration between Yellowtail and artist John Isaiah Pepion. The scarf harkens to the traditional women’s war bonnet dance — in Crow culture called the “Shoshone War Bonnet Dance.” The dance is part of a larger ceremony that celebrates young leaders from indigenous nations.

In sister protests across Canada, indigenous women also joined the march. “Canadians are a part of this because we’re aware that what goes on in the U.S. does have an impact here,” said Tasha Donnelly, who’s with the Canadian delegation’s organizing committee. She points to the rhetoric that trickled over Canada’s borders since Trump was elected. “For a lot of people it meant sexism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment were not considered a deal-breaker for people. That attitude is what we’re worried about in Canada.” Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, for example, tweeted enthusiastic support for Trump’s victory, hoping it might be something that could be emulated here. “That worries us. We want to say this will not do in Canada, we will not permit that kind of divisiveness and disrespect to our voters.”

Canadians are also concerned about the message Trump sends their kids, Donnelly said, and they’re marching to protect rights we often take for granted in Canada, including reproductive freedoms. They’ll also highlight the rights and struggles of indigenous, black and Muslim people here.

While some felt the protest was primarily in reaction to the Trump presidency, others were fighting for a more global cause, especially focused on the racism against marginalised and Native women, who have historically been left out of the feminist movement. “If you go to Washington just to protest Donald Trump, you’ve missed the mark,” national co-chair Tamika Mallory said in a recent Facebook Live interview with Essence magazine. “He is a symptom of a disease that already existed. He’s just going to give new voice to white supremacy, the racism, the sexism, the misogyny, all the stuff that was already there.” As such, the march is about much more than equal pay and reproductive rights for women — it’s meant to draw attention to institutional sexism and racism against women particularly women of colour as well as LGBTQ rights and the rights of immigrants and lower-income people.