Tag Archives: Native Lives Matter

Annual Women’s Memorial Marches Take Place Across Indian Country

 The 26th Annual Women’s Memorial March makes it way down Main Street in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday February 14, 2016. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, VANCOUVER SUN

The 26th Annual Women’s Memorial March makes it way down Main Street in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday February 14, 2016. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, VANCOUVER SUN

By Red Power Media, Staff

Annual memorial marches for missing and murdered indigenous women took place across Indian country on the weekend.

The first annual women’s memorial march began 26 years ago in Vancouver’s —unceded Coast Salish territory Downtown Eastside (DTES).

There are now annual events in several Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, as well as two American cities, Minneapolis and Duluth.

Sunday afternoon, thousands of people in Vancouver marched through the DTES with a route that began at Main and Hastings streets for the 26th annual march to remember indigenous women who have died or gone missing — including those from the DTES — who have died from, “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence,” according to a news release.

The annual Vancouver march is organized every Valentine’s Day and started in 1991 after a woman’s body was found on Powell Street in the DTES.

RCMP estimate that almost 1,200 indigenous women were murdered or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012.

More than 200 women, men and children walked through snowy Winnipeg streets at the Women’s Memorial March on Sunday.

In Toronto, a march through the streets ended at police headquarters – a gesture meant to highlight the city’s still unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native women.

For years, victims’ families have asked for a national inquiry into the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered indigenous women. That wish was granted by the new Liberal government, and preparations are underway.

Now with a sense of cautious optimism the attention is turning to how an inquiry will be conducted.

“Family members have ensured that awareness continues to be raised and our government is fundamentally committed to working with the families, working with organizations to make sure we put forward an inquiry that is reflective of what the families are asking for,” said Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, who attended the Vancouver march for the seventh time.

Victims’ families are invited to attend pre-inquiry meetings across Canada. The closed-door consultations will help design what the inquiry will look like.

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2nd Annual Womens Memorial March. Minneapolis American Indian Center. (Photo Poley Bellanger/Facebook)

On the weekend, 1st and 2nd Annual Women’s Memorial Marches also took place in solidarity with Duluth and Minneapolis to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Minnesota.


Northland’s NewsCenter reports‎, Shelia St. Clair, a Duluth Native-American woman went missing in September, and another Northland indigenous woman, Lisa Isham, was murdered in the summer of 2015.

One representative of Native Lives Matter says 3 Minnesota Indigenous women in the past year have lost their lives or are missing, but that there needs to be better policies put in place in order to track that data.

Recently three men were arrested and charged in connection with the disappearance and murder of Rose Downwind near Bemidji Minnesota in October of last year.

Downwind is the daughter of Darla Banks and granddaughter of American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks.

One Of The Racial Minorities Most Likely To Be Killed By Police Is Also The Most Overlooked

Enough is enough.(Reuters/ Elizabeth Shafiroff)

Enough is enough. (Reuters/ Elizabeth Shafiroff)

By Tara Houska / Quartz, 08/14/15

Ma-hi-vist Goodblanket. Corey Kanosh. Allen Locke. Paul Castaway. Sarah Lee Circle Bear. Do any of these names sound familiar? Those are just some of the names of Native Americans who recently lost their lives upon encountering police.

Case in point: On July 12, Denver police fatally shot 35-year-old Paul Castaway, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, four times. According to law enforcement, Castaway had stabbed his mother in the neck and was “dangerously close” when he was shot. Surveillance footage and eyewitnesses told a different tale, however.

Paul Castaway’s mother, Lynn Eagle Feather, said she called 911 asking for help with her mentally ill son. A security camera showed Castaway holding a knife to his own neck when officers opened fire. Witnesses said his final words were “What’s wrong with you guys?” Eagle Feather says she now regrets calling the police.

Just a few weeks earlier, Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Sarah Lee Circle Bear, a 24-year-old mother of two who was allegedly pregnant, died in a South Dakota holding cell. Witnesses said Circle Bear pleaded with jailers and told them she was in excruciating abdominal pain. According to media accounts, her calls were met with callous skepticism. She was found unresponsive hours later and pronounced dead on arrival to a nearby hospital.

There are no nationwide rallies for Native American justice, no presidential commentary, no around-the-clock coverage.

These stories bear similarities to the narrative of police brutality and questionable deaths that has dominated the news as of late. Yet, aside from small protests organized and attended by Native Americans, these injustices are largely unheard by the greater public. There are no nationwide rallies for justice, no presidential commentary, no around-the-clock coverage.

Last August, the Center on Juvenile Justice and Criminal Justice reported that despite being less than 2% of the US population, Native Americans are the most likely racial group to be killed by law enforcement. This fact is often overlooked in stories referencing violence against people of color—the conversation is largely a black and white binary, and even that binary is often denied and suppressed. “All Lives Matter” comes to mind.

Sadly, for Native America being overlooked is nothing new. Our voices are seldom in the mainstream, our issues disregarded. Native media and alternative media are frequently our only platforms, with the rare article reaching a wider audience.

One of the biggest stories to finally percolate into the public consciousness came through the Washington football team name controversy. And yet even there Native erasure was apparent, as we saw decades of protests and lawsuits against the Washington team turned into a “liberal PC crusade.” The few Natives featured in mainstream media were painted as fringe activists, and told there were “more important things to worry about.

A country actively engaged in taking down confederate flags and denouncing symbols of racism remains lukewarm—if not downright celebratory—of the dehumanization and racial caricaturing of Native Americans because well, that’s different. Never mind that Native Americans are statistically far more likely to be the victims of a hate crime than any other racial group besides African Americans.

Truth be told, many Americans remain unaware of the indigenous peoples living in their midst. According to the schoolbooks, our communities disappeared with the onset of Manifest Destiny.

Our very existence is an affront to American exceptionalism—best that we remain static noble warriors.

Our very existence is an affront to American exceptionalism—best that we remain static noble warriors, not modern peoples living with the effects of attempted eradication, intergenerational trauma, and ongoing disparities across the board.

Thanks largely to a jurisprudence that continues to whittle away at tribal sovereignty and rights reserved to us through treaties, our communities are almost entirely without authority to prosecute non-Native criminals on reservations.

Imagine, if you will, being told an out-of-state offender is exempt from jurisdiction, that all law enforcement can do is escort them to state lines. That’s our reality.

The federal government holds prosecution power on reservations, but its declination rate hovers around 35%. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime and one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime. Roughly 70% of the offenders will be non-Native. Most will walk.

That’s just a small sampling of the many unseen ways Native Americans are disparately treated by the American justice system. The deaths of Paul Castaway and Sarah Lee Circle Bear merit investigation, but it appears unlikely to happen without national pressure. Charges have yet to be filed in either incident.

America’s original people are tired of our seemingly invisible status. This is an opportunity for Americans everywhere to stand together with the smallest minority population, to demonstrate that “justice for all” is truly a tenet of American society.

Native lives matter.


Native Lives Matter: Police Killing Native Americans At Astounding Rate


Image Credit: Student Put in Paddy Wagon, Light Brigading

By Ruth McCambridge

A recent report by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports that Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Native Americans make up almost two percent of those killed by police though they are only 0.8 percent of the population. While police kill young black men more than any other group, they kill Native Americans at a higher rate.

As with African Americans, these killings are not isolated from the larger problem of police and societal violence, as this devastating article in Counterpunch discusses in the particular context of New Mexico, which in 2014 had the highest rate of police killing in the country. That article reports that “according to a 2003 study by the New Mexico Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Native people experience ‘acts of ethnic intimidation; threats of physical violence, assaults, and other potential hate crimes’ as part of everyday life in border towns like Gallup, Farmington and Albuquerque.”


Chase Iron Eyes is an attorney with the Lakota People’s Law Project in South Dakota, which published a report called “Native Lives Matter” early this year. He says that the DOJ needs to address police violence against Native Americans.

“You can tell they’re shooting out of fear,” he said. “If it’s not out of hate, for some reason they’re pulling the trigger before determining what the situation actually is. Something does need to happen. Somebody does need to take a look and we need help.”

By Ruth McCambridge in Nonprofit Quarterly, July 16, 2015


Protesters march on Rapid City Hall for racial equality

Native Lives Matter movement supporters walk past the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Thursday afternoon en route to the City/School Administration Center as part of the All Relations Community March Against Racism.

Native Lives Matter movement supporters walk past the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Thursday afternoon en route to the City/School Administration Center as part of the All Relations Community March Against Racism.

In frigid, windy but sunny conditions, more than 100 protesters Thursday marched on the Rapid City-School Administration Center downtown as part of a movement calling for government accountability to resolve social injustices toward Native Americans.

The Thursday march coincided with the release a 12-page report by the Lakota People’s Law Project, “Native Lives Matter,” which asserts the U.S. justice system is responsible for those injustices.

Prominent topics noted in the report include police brutality, namely that Native Americans are the most likely to be killed by law enforcement; that Native American children make up 1 percent of the nation’s youth population but account for 70 percent of youths committed overall to the Federal Bureau of Prisons; and that Native Americans are victims of violent crimes at twice the rate of all other U.S. residents.

“The roots of these problems are money and racism,” according to the report.

Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, led the march, which started at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center band shell in Memorial Park, traversed the Memorial Park Promenade, stopped traffic on Omaha Street and ended in front of the City-School Administration Center at 300 Sixth Street downtown.

“My relatives, I’m at a tipping point,” Iron Eyes told the crowd that massed Thursday despite the blustery weather. “I know you’re at a tipping point because we can’t take this any longer.”

If those in power had their way, Iron Eyes said, “We would exist in the margins of poverty for the next 100 years,” he said. “They would sentence us to death by poverty if they had their way.”

Iron Eyes said the fatal police shooting of 30-year-old Allen Locke in December was the most recent incident between Native Americans and the Rapid City Police Department. The U.S. Department of Justice cleared the officer involved in the shooting, though many in the Native American community have protested that the incident was improperly investigated.

Iron Eyes said there have been too many Native Americans killed by Rapid City Police, and there have been too many Native Americans found dead along Rapid Creek.

“We felt that was a crisis situation and that we needed more than just rhetoric at rallies,” Iron Eyes said of the origin of the Native Lives Matter report.

He said economic empowerment is the only way to compensate for injustices toward Native Americans.

Iron Eyes said Lakota People’s Law Project, in conjunction with the group Native Lives Matter, will be reaching out to state, Pennington County, Rapid City and tribal governments for an economic analysis of the fiscal impact of Native Americans on the region.

The numbers would include not only money spent by Native Americans, but also what health care funding is brought into the state or any sort of institutional spending on behalf of the tribes, Iron Eyes said.

“We want all those numbers because currently there is a stereotype that Natives don’t pay taxes,” he said. “Well, we’re paying at least 4, 8 percent, or whatever the sales, excise, use, alcohol, tobacco, vehicle (taxes) — any kind of taxes that we pay to the Rapid City economy, we would like a percentage of that.”

Bryan Brewer, a former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and director of the Lakota Nation Invitational event, said during the march that the community will have to stride together to erase racism.

But Brewer said city leadership needs to present a plan for a fix moving forward, especially if LNI is to continue its decades-long presence in Rapid City.

“The Lakota Nation Invitational, right now, we don’t want to leave Rapid City. This is our home also,” he said. “We’ve been here for 38 years, and we want to stay and fight this issue. We don’t want to run. But if we have to, we will. We will be out of Rapid City.

“The (LNI) board, the schools: We’re going to be looking to see what Rapid City does, what plans that they have to make sure all of our children are safe when we come to Rapid City, and I just can’t say enough that we have to work together.”

Sir John A. Macdonald birthday event detoured by aboriginal rights protest

About a dozen aboriginal rights advocates staged a protest in front of Sir John A. Macdonald's statue in Hamilton on Sunday, the politician's 200th birthday. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

About a dozen aboriginal rights advocates staged a protest in front of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue in Hamilton on Sunday, the politician’s 200th birthday. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

By Sunnie Huang, CBC News

About a dozen aboriginal-rights advocates staged a protest in front of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statue in downtown Hamilton on Sunday, detouring a local society’s celebration for the bicentennial birthday of Canada’s first prime minister.

The protesters converged at Gore Park around 1 p.m., just before the annual wreath-laying ceremony organized by the Sir John A. Macdonald Society was slated to begin.

Holding signs that read “Native Lives Matter” and “Natives fed you, saved you. Canada starved natives & murder,” the protest drew honks from drivers on the adjacent King Street. Some pedestrians also stopped to take photos and chat with the protesters.

Kaweowene of Six Nations said he came to protest what he sees as the starvation of aboriginal people and the mistreatment of Asians while the politician was in power.

He said he also hopes the protest will raise awareness for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“A lot of the women that were starved became ill, and then they died,” he said. “Technically that’s murder. So this guy is a murderer. I don’t think people should celebrate murders and genocides like that.”

Kristen Villebrun, another protester, said the group originally planned to hold the protest at Dundurn Castle, but decided to meet at the statue because of its central location in downtown Hamilton and its exposure to traffic.

“We know the true history, so it’s time to let the people of Hamilton know what it really stands for,” she said.

Local society seeks compromise

The protesters said they want the statue to come down.

“It represents genocide. We’d like it to come down,” Villebrun said.

Hamilton’s Sir John A. Macdonald Society, which has been organizing the politician’s birthday celebrations for 50 years, skipped its usual wreath-laying ceremony at the statue. The group went straight to a pub a few blocks away for the second part of the commemorative event, where members made remarks and shared cakes and drinks.

Robin McKee, local historian and president of the society, said the society tried to find compromise, because “it’s exactly what Macdonald would have done.”

“[The protesters] can have theirs. We can have ours. It wasn’t territorial,” he said. “They have the right.”

McKee said he is not aware of the protesters’ demand for the statue to come down.

“Why would you put a statue up and then take it down?” he said.

Bicentenary of Macdonald’s birth

The protesters left Gore Park some time before 3 p.m., while the celebration continued at the pub. The only remaining sign of the protest was a poster, taped to the base of the statue, that read “Father of Native Genocide.”

Sunday marks the 200th birthday of the man known as the founding father of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper commemorated the occasion under tight security in Kingston, Ont. He described Macdonald as “a shining example of modesty, hope and success,” but also alluded to his reputation as a drinker.