Back in January, I was invited to go along down to DC for the Indigenous People’s March and the Women’s March. Wanda and I have done several Sierra Club Service Projects together and many other activities—such as a local Syracuse March protesting the Keystone Pipeline in support of the protesters at Standing Rock. She has also invited me to Laguna Pueblo in Arizona for their feast days, The Field Museum in Phoenix, concerts with her sisters, Joanne and Diane Shenandoah, who sing beautiful Native American music—well you get the picture. These trips often involved connecting with Native people in various parts of the country. So, it felt quite natural to join the Indigenous People’s March that was planned for the day before the Women’s March.
But…we arrived at the beginning of the march site a little late. So, we didn’t actually do the march. But we caught up with everyone shortly afterward and reveled in the splendor of all the many styles of Native dress. To have the Washington Monument in sight and the Jefferson Monument right in front of us was inspiring in itself. We listened to speeches and participated in a circle dance. Drums, rattles, singing and chanting were all part of the festivities. So was a serious talk about the many young Indian women who are being raped and “disappeared.” The numbers are much higher than that of any other population. One speaker called out the names of every one of them. Also, calling out the derisive names that indigenous peoples have been called,
It was a friendly crowd and Wanda met up with a few people she knew from other parts of the country and from our local Onondaga Nation. There seemed to be a large representation of the Haudenosaunee. Their purple and white made them stand out.
Many of you assuredly heard on the news the next day about an elderly Indian man, Nathan Phillips, being harassed by a group of young teenagers from the South, many wearing MAGA hats. We met a few of the moms of these students in the bathrooms beneath the Lincoln Memorial. They were just asking directions and were part of the Planned Parenthood protesters. Meanwhile, a different drama was unfolding outside. We saw the large men who were proclaiming that they were Black Hebrew Israelites. They were a strange kind of activists, indeed. We missed the confrontation where, supposedly, teenage boys were being attacked. The news that night constantly replayed the footage of a small crowd of MAGA-hat wearers making noise. The smarmy smile of one young man seemed highly insulting. This was all refuted when additional footage was produced later on. Mr. Phillips claimed that he inserted himself into the possible confrontation in order to quell any violence that might have occurred between these large black men and the mostly white kids from the South.
Wanda and her daughter Rachel and I missed this drama also. It seemed to be going on quite a distance from where we were standing. It is too bad that the incident got blown out of proportion and used as a weapon between those on “the right” and those on “the left.” I am glad we were not in the midst of the somewhat disrespectful attitude of the teenage boys who were acting foolish and “whooping it up.” But it should not have escalated in the media to the point that the news reports on both sides exacerbated the whole event. Sadly, as a result, many of the important points that the marchers and their spokespersons were trying to make did not make the news.
I am glad I could be a part of it, listen to some of their history, hold hands and have conversations, help myself to free sassafras tea, and enjoy the richness and diversity of the many representatives of tribes all over the world.
The next day, we got to the Women’s March on time. (Wanda had worked in Washington, D.C. for years several decades ago and she knew the city well.) It was crowded and there were plenty of pink pussy hats. (I had brought mine that had been given to me before the first Women’s March when I was in Atlanta.) I could have stayed home and joined the march in downtown Syracuse. Or I could have gone to the big march being held in Seneca Falls. But since I was left out of the first march, it was important to me to do the D.C. trip. [Read one of my first blogs from January 2018, and you will see why I missed participating in that first march. It was a very ironic turn of events.]
There were plenty of signs and we were all handed some free ones to carry. The mood was upbeat and power driven. There were so many of us that we moved slowly. But no one was angry (except at Trump) or pushing, or out-of-line (Well…maybe the ladies who were selling large photos of naked women to try to make a point about body image.) There was a spark in the volume of our protest shouts as each segment passed in front of Trump Tower. The march was not very long. But there were plenty of good speeches by famous and near famous important people to listen to. Free food and drink were offered. Wanda and I got stopped by some gentlemen with cameras who wanted to interview us briefly about the event. We obliged and shared the good things we had to say about it. And Rachel “shared” her dog Chloe, the cutest little white fluffy service dog ever. I came to the conclusion that Chloe and Rachel were the most photographed of anyone else in this march.
You may have heard that there was controversy over the D.C. March this year. That probably significantly contributed to the numbers being down this year. One of the leaders was also a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. She was criticized for allowing Louis Farrakhan to have part in the day’s agenda. I could understand the dilemma, though. I experienced a similar issue when I decided to use a quote from Khadijah Farrakhan in a teachers’ resource book that I wrote about ten years ago. Though Farrakhan himself was controversial, the quote I attributed to him pertaining to the importance of women certainly was a positive message.
While there is more to say, I will stop here and let the photos tell more of the story. My soul was finally satisfied. I had participated in many marches since moving to Syracuse. So, it was highly frustrating to keep missing the women’s marches! The irony of that reaches the ridiculous!