Special to Indian Country Today
ROSEBUD, South Dakota — The Sicangu Oyate ki Iyanka running club escorted a coast-to-coast relay through the Rosebud reservation to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women.
After spending time on the Oglala Lakota Nation last week, the #MMIWBIKERUNUSA2021 arrived at the western edge of the Rosebud reservation on Saturday, Sept. 4 and continued on through Sunday, Sept. 5.
Several Sicangu citizens joined organizer Duane Garvais Lawrence, a descendant of the Colville and Assiniboine tribes from Washington state, in running relay-style to the Rosebud Fairgrounds, including long-distance runners Daryl Jones, Totes Waln, Almona Kills In Water, LaToya Crazy Bull, Holden Haukaas, Delmar Forgets Nothing and Louie Arcoren.
Sicangu citizen Sonnie Scott rode her bike along the entire route from Upper Cut Meat to Rosebud, carrying her small dog in a backpack as she pedaled down the highway.
Turtle print blankets were given to at least one relative of a victim during stops along the route.
“These blankets have done a lot for the victim’s families,” Garvais Lawrence told Indian Country Today. “When somebody that’s grieving gets a blanket, you can see the light come back into their eyes. We are recognizing the victim.”
Missing and murdered Indigenous women use the hashtag #MMIW for events held regularly across Turtle Island to bring awareness and to advocate for justice for the countless number of women, men and children who are missing or have been found murdered.
Incidents of violence such as aggravated assault, rape and murder are suffered by Indigenous women at higher rates than any other race. One in three Indigenous women across Turtle Island will suffer a violent attack at least once in her life.
When the run passes through tribal lands, residents determine who they wish to acknowledge and remember in the event. For the run through Rosebud, the group chose to honor the memory of Reganne Chekpa, a 20-year-old Sicangu Lakota woman who was shot to death in August 2020. One of the female runners used red paint to write Reganne’s name down her arm. Other runners painted the names of other victims on their arms.
The #MMIW Bike Run USA 2021 event is now in its second year. An array of MMIW events are held regularly in Indigenous communities.
The most recent journey began in Olympia, the state capital of Washington, on July 18, 2021. Many Indigenous long-distance runners have helped move the run along the route by providing an escort through their homelands.
On Sunday, Sept. 5, the group continued the relay run from Rosebud to the Carter, South Dakota area, and was continuing on toward the next stop at Ihanktowan territory on Sept. 7 to continue the event with Yankton citizens.
The run is accompanied by a white RV covered with the names of missing or murdered Indigenous people written in red ink along the vehicle sides and back. Two eagle feather staffs are part of the #MMIW journey, and the Rosebud runners carried eagle feathers from the staff during their time on the road.
“During this run I was handed an eagle feather and was told to touch a staff hanging on a back of an RV,” said Forgets Nothing, one of the Sicangu relay runners. “Once I touched the staff, I heard an eagle screaming. That was amazing.”
Along with the eagle feather staffs, other items have been contributed by Indigenous relatives of MMIW victims. A pair of boot-style moccasins was sent to accompany the journey to Washington, D.C. They had been worn by a Colville woman who ran five miles in them before donating them to the event. There were also three T-shirts tied to the back of the RV.
“One of the T-shirts represents Tina Marie Finley from the Coeur d’Alene tribe in Idaho,” Garvais Lawrence said. “She’s been missing since March 1988.”
Hosting the Rosebud event were members of the Sicangu Oyate ki Iyanka, a running club whose name means Run for the People. The club was formed to encourage tribal citizens of all ages to improve their health and wellness through running.
Club members participate in local, state and regional long-distance events, including half-marathon and marathon runs. The dedicated long-distance runners often run through downtown Rosebud and put in miles along local roadways.
“People ask me why I’m doing this run,” Garvais Lawrence said. “I tell them women are sacred and it’s ridiculous that so many Indigenous people go missing. It’s got to stop. I have five daughters and that’s another reason why I’m doing this. I want to make it safer for them and all Indigenous people.”
For more information
Follow the MMIW cross-country journey by searching hashtag #mmiwbikerunusa2021 on Facebook and Instagram. Follow Rosebud’s running club on Facebook at @SicanguOyatekiIyanka.
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