Many of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity Marchers are involved with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Christine Nobiss, who is with us on this March, is one of the leaders of Seeding Sovereignty, one of the sponsors of this march.
From the Seeding Sovereignty website: “Over 90 percent of Native American women have experienced some sort of violence in their lifetime. 86% of those women are sexual assaulted by a non-tribal member. Tribal courts can’t try non-Native individuals, which means non-natives can commit crimes on Native American land—including sexual assault—with virtually zero consequence.”
At this year’s Women’s March, Christine Nobiss said, “This (Women’s) March is about many things, but primarily it is about empowering women. The reality is that Native American and Alaska Native women endure the highest rates of rape and assault in this country. Older statistics told us that one in three Native American women will be raped or experience sexual assault in their lifetime, but recently that statistic has been moved to 1 in 2…” https://seedingsovereignty.org/mmiw/
Foxy Onefeather holds a painting about this crisis by Jackie Fawn during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.
“The story of this piece is of a sister being engulfed by the blacksnake, and its poison. She holds a candle that has burned for what seem like an endless time in the darkness. Protecting her spirit are two red butterflies that carry the prayers of the people for our murdered and missing. For our women and children we must rise. For our water and the connection that the earth and women share, we must rise. For their futures, we rise.” – Jackie Fawn
Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee spoke about missing and murdered Indigenous women at our gathering in Minneapolis this past February, protesting U.S. Bank’s continued funding of fossil fuel projects. The relationship between these two things is that many of the Native women assaulted, taken and/or murdered were assaulted by men working in the pipeline construction camps or oil fields.
One of the most powerful stories I heard during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March related to drones. One of the first people I got to know, and became good friends with, was Matt Lone Bear, a single father of four children. He was taking a lot of video during the March, so he and I were often in the same location, to take a particular shot of the March or our surroundings. (I didn’t try to duplicate his shot from lying on his back as seen below.)
Matt and I talked a lot about photography and videography. As happens during a march like this, you hear all kinds of stories from your new friends. Conversations were going on the entire time we walked. That’s one of the purposes of this march, to work toward understanding and unity, and the many hours we spent together each day helped a great deal with that.
On the second day of the March, a drone flew overhead while Matt and I were talking. I asked if he had ever taken video with a drone. It turns out he has a great deal of experience with drones. When I asked what he used drones for, he said to search for missing people. He had recently spent several months searching for someone close to him who had disappeared. But that wasn’t the only person he has been involved in searching for. This is related to the huge problem with disappearing and murdered Native women briefly described above. I think he was actually taking a break from those emotionally draining searches by participating on this March. Talking to him since the March ended, I learned he is heading to another area to search for yet another missing person. Matt is planning to use his experience to develop a manual for others who plan to search for people. Prior to the use of drones, lines of people would walk to search.
I feel sad for my friend’s loss. Later that day, Matt was driving one of the vehicles after we arrived in Huxley, and came upon me as I was walking back from the store. He stopped and asked, “haven’t you had enough walking today?”
On a lighter note, I asked if any of his kids were interested in drones. He told me one of them won a drone in a contest.
Once during the March I heard someone say “Matt is one of my favorite people, he always has a smile on his face.”
I was completely surprised when he told me he is also a cage fighter, and evidently a very good one from what I learned of his reputation. The back of his shirt in the photo above is related to cage fighting.