May 5 was the annual day to honor Hanna Harris and the movement for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Harris (Northern Cheyenne) was a 21-year-old new mother who was murdered in July of 2013. What sounds like a plot to a psychological thriller is a daily reality for the families of over 5800 missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America.
Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.
I’m Rachel Heaton. I am a member of the Muckleshoot Tribe in Auburn, Washington. I’m also a descendant of the Duwamish peoples, the original inhabitants of Seattle, and do hold descendancy with European folks, mostly Welsh, German, and Irish. I’m a mother to three children, ages 22, 14, and 2. I work as a cultural educator for the Muckleshoot Tribe, and I’m a co-founder of Mazaska Talks.
Inspired by our learnings from Standing Rock, specifically finding out which banks funded the pipeline and learning about the coalition work done by organizers to get the City of Seattle to divest their money from Wells Fargo, co-founder Matt Remle and I formed Mazaska Talks. We use it as a way to educate people on issues related to the harming of Mother Earth and repression of Indigenous rights, then to organize action. For example, because we see the harm brought by the fossil fuel industry, we organize divestment campaigns.
Led by Indigenous Sisters Resistance, Indigenous People’s Day rally attendees sang, “today is for us, Indigenous people, rise up, sing loud, celebrate and be proud,” their words ringing through Westlake Park on Oct. 14.
A groundbreaking report was released from the Urban Indian Health Institute revealed that Seattle has the highest number of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) in the country, and Washington state holds the second highest rates of missing and murdered indigenous women. Native women have been leading the way in responses to the crisis of MMIW through legislative advocacy and community organizing work. In Washington state, two bills were recently passed thanks to the work of native women which increase reporting of missing native women and require law enforcement to improve their response to MMIW through hiring tribal liaisons and improving data collection methods.
Despite its large, open space, Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center was almost overflowing Monday evening, many generations of Indigenous people packing the center for the fifth annual Indigenous People’s Day celebration.