Indigenous Event Highlights Black Activism, Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Jun 28, 2020

A gathering in Eugene’s Owen Rose Garden Sunday afternoon called 'Indigenous Solidarity with Black Liberation' was held to show support with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as highlight an issue that’s haunted the Native American community: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (#mmiw).

Attendees at Sunday's event circle a tipi in Owen Rose Garden, as a women's honor song is played.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

About 150 people showed, despite the lingering threat of rain. As speakers shared their accounts of systemic racism, historical trauma, and calls for justice for all people, a small group of people raised a tipi.

Sandra Shotridge is a Tlingit native and longtime resident of Eugene. She says she’s frustrated by an epidemic that has only recently received attention from law enforcement and the public.

Native American speakers talk to a crowd of about 150 at the event.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

“Black and brown women are getting killed, sometimes by our own people," she tells KLCC.

"And it’s important for me to get the word out that y’know…we’ve had enough.  We’ve had enough.”

Statistics show more than 5,700 native women and girls have gone missing or become victims of homicide.  A recent Oregon law seeks to improve police investigations of such cases.

The event also saw a march around the tipi, as a women's honor song was performed.  Attendees kept to the park boundaries, and was peaceful with no sign of counter-demonstrators or agitators, as some events in the past month have seen.

Jane Coverdell, another Tlingit native, says for some, this event is more inclusive than others over the past month.

Jane Coverdell at the 'Indigenous Solidarity for Black' event.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

“I have heard women and non-binary indigenous people speak about how they didn’t feel safe at certain organizations because of the misogyny," she says.  "So this is a space where those people can feel safe to show their support.”

A newly-raised tipi marks the site of today's event, where speakers discussed tribal sovereignty, genocide, and justice reform.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

One of the speakers was Jacob Billy, a member of the Yakama Indian Nation. He says dialogue is a crucial step towards ending divisions along lines of class, race, and privilege.

“Some people are more equal than others in this nation. So how do we deal with them?  I think when we talk them out, we can work out differences that will be beneficial to all of us.”

Both Billy and Coverdell say this isn’t to detract from the broader message of justice reform and empowerment.  Just that more work needs to happen to make the U.S. a truly inclusive nation.

WEB EXTRA: See a women's honor song performed before a march around the tipi:

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