Vi Waln
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.”

The RV carrying a message of awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women also carries two eagle feather staffs  given to organizer Duane Garvais Lawrence, a descendent of the Colville and Assiniboine tribes, at the Standing Rock #NODAPL camp. The red dress silhouettes bear the names of Annie Colhoff and Shelli Poor Bear, young women who were killed on the Pine Ridge reservation. The red dresses will accompany the bike run across Turtle Island on its way from Washington state to Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

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.

Members of the Sicangu Oyate ki Iyanka group run down the west hill into the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota to finish the first day of a relay drawing attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The white RV shown on the roadway is crossing through tribal lands on its way from Washington state to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to MMIW. (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

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.

Sicangu Oyate citizen Sonnie Scott is joined by her dog on Sept. 4, 2021, in escorting the white RV across the Rosebud Indian Reservation to draw attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The relay is crossing tribal lands on its way from Washington state to Washington, D.C. (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

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.”

Sicangu Oyate ki Iyanka runners joined organizer Duane Garvais Lawrence, a descendant of the Colville and Assiniboine tribes from Washington state, in a relay run across Rosebud to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. Rosebud runners participating include back row from left, Daryl Jones, Brandy Jo Canyon, Totes Waln, Almona Kills In Water and LaToya Crazy Bull. Kneeling in front are an unidentified supporter, Garvais Lawrence and Rosebud runners Holden Haukaas, Delmar Forgets Nothing and Louie Arcoren. (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

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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