From Alaska to D.C., Natives march in solidarity
From tiny Unalakleet, Alaska, to an intersection on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to the streets of Havre, Montana, to a public park in Riverton, Wyoming — places that might take a bit longer to find on Google Maps — people are participating in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Tricia Ivanoff, Inupiaq and Yupik, carried a Black Lives Matter sign Wednesday and marched with about two dozen others through their coastal Alaska town, home of the Native Village of Unalakleet and around 700 people. About half of the participants were Alaska Native, and all were out in solidarity with a movement that continues to grow in momentum across Turtle Island.
Two teens, including Olivia Mashiana, organized the 45-minute demonstration. Olivia’s mother, Kristen Erickson Mashiana, sent a group text to friends about the idea, and Ivanoff and others responded. Olivia has been battling leg limitations since November and wears braces to help her walk, but she helped carry a Black Lives Matter banner for most of the march.
Ivanoff said she participated to “show our brothers and sisters that in a small community that we have their backs, that we love them and that we care for them and that we’re willing to show up. It was the right thing to do.”
Marches, demonstrations and protests continue to take place almost two weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. On May 25, Officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video holding his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded for his life. Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene have been charged in connection to Floyd’s death.
Protests in Minneapolis started almost immediately after the video went viral. They grew beyond Minneapolis to other cities and into small communities, including in Indian Country, as thousands show solidarity. Since the start of the unrest, Natives in Minneapolis have marched in large protests with the message of “Black Lives Matter.” A group of jingle dress dancers held a healing ceremony Monday at the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd was killed.
Natives have also taken part in protests happening in other big cities. Sebi Medina-Tayac, Piscataway, demonstrated this week in Washington, D.C.
Medina-Tayac said this movement is calling for help, “and it’s really important that Native people and Black people stand together because our heritage in this country goes back further than most. We’ve experienced the absolute worst of what this country was founded upon. And we are living and present reminder that this country was founded on genocide and slavery.”
On the evening of June 1, Medina-Tayac was arrested for the 7 p.m. curfew violation with dozens of others and given a citation.
There’s a call for Natives to march in solidarity with Black lives on Friday at the National Museum of American Indians.
USA Today created an interactive map tracking protests, and every state has had at least one.
Justice for Zachary Bear Heels, a Facebook page dedicated to bringing attention to the 2017 Omaha, Nebraska, police beating of 29-year-old Bear Heels, posted a message Thursday of solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
On June 5, 2017, police were called to a convenience store reportedly because Bear Heels wouldn’t leave, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Police used a stun gun to repeatedly shock Bear Heels, and he was beaten on the ground while not resisting, video from a patrol car dashcam showed. Bear Heels died in a parking lot in police custody. The four police officers involved were fired, but three were later reinstated. The fourth officer was charged with assault initially and was acquitted in 2018.
A memorial walk for Bear Heels was held in Omaha on Friday, the third anniversary of his death.
In Wyoming, around 200 people gathered to honor Floyd and stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter at a park in Riverton, a town surrounded by the Wind River Reservation.
Micah Lott, Northern Arapaho, helped organize the event and said Riverton was an ideal location in part because of the 2019 death of Anderson Antelope, Northern Arapaho. Antelope was shot and killed by police at a Riverton Walmart after allegedly attempting to stab an officer.
Micah said he and others held demonstrations asking for answers in Antelope’s death that never came.
“We specifically targeted Riverton because of its population, which is primarily conservative, white and elderly,” Lott said. “A lot of Indigenious people and a lot of people of color had altercations.”
Lott said another gathering was planned for Friday in Lander, a reservation border town.
Earlier this week, Black Lives Matter supporters held a gathering in Pendleton, Oregon, near the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. A sign said “Native People for Black Lives.”
A group in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, held signs in support of the movement Thursday.
Also Thursday, the Indian Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, held a “Natives in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter” gathering. The group held a “gripping, nine-minute moment of silence punctuated by Native drums and war cries,” according to its Facebook page. Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
More than 100 people participated in a “Walk for Justice, George Floyd and Equality” event on Sunday in Havre, Montana, a small town north of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation and near the Canadian border. The event was organized by a Chippewa Cree citizen.
“We are out here not only to homage to the individual George Floyd, who was blatantly murdered in front of America, but all those affected by trauma, racism and profiling,” Melody Bernard told Havre Daily News.
Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter - @daltonwalker
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Indian Country Today Washington editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye contributed to this report.