by Roxanne White
I am Roxanne White. I am Nez Perce, Yakama, Nooksack, and Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Nations. I want to honor our ways and acknowledge I am a guest to this Coast Salish territory. I acknowledge that these are the ancestral homelands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot Nations.
I’ve been asked what my vision is for Seattle and what I would like to see once renewal begins. Immediately I looked up the english definition of the word “renewal”: To resume after a long interruption and to replace something that was rundown, worn out, or broken.
My vision would be that renewal begins with the curriculum our children are taught. The education system needs to teach the truth about who Native people were and are! But the story has to be told by us. It’s very important that history is told by the people it impacted and affected. Indigenous people have been passing down our oral history for generations. We’re the ones that know who we are.
And what about the school-to-prison pipeline? While most schools are culturally insensitive to Native people, Native children are also being funneled through systemic racism and ongoing genocide. What a great way to devastate our people through our future generations. We demand the end of mass incarceration.
I pray that in my lifetime I get to witness a justice system that protects and serves Indigenous women and girls. Period. Why do Indigenous women have to fight so hard to be seen as humans worth protecting? Eighty-four percent of Native women report experiencing violence in their lifetime. Fifty-six percent of Native women have faced sexual violence, and 55 percent have been victims of intimate partner violence. In some counties, Native women are killed at a rate 10 times higher than the national average. What about Natives that have been murdered by police? I know at least 15 Indigenous people who were killed by police and two were pregnant Native women. I have said their names over and over at events the past year. We demand accountability for fatal police brutality!
Seattle and the world has a growing number of houseless communities suffering mental illness, trauma, and addiction. I’ve survived some traumatic events in my life that led to homelessness. I’ve seen a lot happen. Looking at it all from my perspective today, we need to create more resources and trauma-informed mental health services with wrap-around care for those that are houseless. I don’t get how we can continue to turn our cheeks when people are suffering right in front of us. This is everyone’s responsibility. Stop the sweeps on houseless communities!
As an Indigenous woman I have not felt that this system or this country has ever served my people. When will Seattle honor the Indigenous people of these territories, stop tokenizing us, truly ask what First People want and permanently reserve our seats at the table? I pray that the system that has been created to oppress Indigenous, Black, and Brown people will be abolished!
Roxanne White is a fearless and dedicated organizer and social justice advocate who has dedicated her work to Indian Country. She is recognized nationally for her work on issues related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) and for her work with MMIP families and communities seeking justice and healing. She is also known her work on human trafficking in Native communities. Roxanne is a grassroots organizer, standing on the front lines for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. She embodies vibrant Indigenous leadership through the resilience of culture and ceremony and a lens of historical trauma. Roxanne is a family member of MMIP, as well as a survivor of human trafficking, domestic violence, childhood abduction, and sexual abuse. She draws on her personal experience to empower and support MMIP families, survivors, and Native communities.
Illustration by Alexa Strabuck
Before you move on to the next story . . . please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!