Woman’s March. A fitting title to an event that helps brings the prayer full circle. Mothers protecting the mother. Lifegivers protecting the Lifegiver. The hope was that 253 women would march today. The 253, of course, being the local dialing code. In the end, that number was reached and exceeded. Men were also on hand to provide support and to show solidarity to our woman warriors. It is estimated that the total number of protectors was somewhere between 300 and 400 with over 300 walkers being women.
Woman’s Voice Dampened
The plan was to march from Tacoma’s Wrights Park to the City Building to address the Tacoma City Council who were holding their monthly Citizens Forum. From there, the protectors were scheduled to walk to Tollefson Plaza. The plaza, with plenty of places to sit, would then host the rest of the program. Attendees would join prayer, song and hear the evenings speakers, which included prominent woman elders of the Puyallup Tribe, including the legendary Ramona Bennet who famously fought for the Tribes treaty rights in the 1970s.
However, not all went to plan. The Tacoma City Council hurried the Citizens forum and adjourned at a much earlier time than they normally do. The police presence outside of the venue making it clear that the council did not want to have to answer to the people. This is a city in which the leader is a woman and one of the two mayoral candidates to replace her is also a woman. It was expected that we would see a show of solidarity for the many women who wanted to make their voice heard today. Embarrassingly for the Mayor and City of Tacoma, this was not the case. One woman in the crowd remarked ‘I thought the mayor was a woman of color. How can she do this to so many indigenous women?’
The movement was still well represented at the forum though with powerful testimony from scientists and local citizens. Dakota Case of the Puyallup Tribe spoke passionately about the reasons this terrible facility must not be allowed.
Awareness is continuing to grow. The Woman’s March success vindicates the work of the Water Warriors, their allies, natives from other tribes, local activists, and citizen media. There is tangible evidence now that suggests their hard work has started to pay off. Information events and live streams of actions have put the fracked gas (LNG, Liquid Natural Gas) facility and the protectors stand firmly in the limelight. The public is taking notice.
One of the event organizers, Nichol Wilkins, is new to #NOLNG253 but is no stranger to water protection, She and her husband spent several months at the NODAPL camps in North Dakota. As a former Tacoma resident, she knew that she had to come from her home in Colorado to help.
Others came from as far as Portland and Montana, saying they were inspired to do so by the photography and videos on social media.
The camps at Standing Rock have been closed for Six months now. When they left, Water Protectors were asked to take the fire with them. They were instructed to keep praying for the water. They were asked to keep the water protector movement going and to stand on all fronts in the fight to protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth.) Now that fire is burning in all directions and the movement continues to grow.
It was quite an amazing sight and definitely one to remember. Women from all walks of life. All backgrounds. Women and girls of all ages. They all came to stand. They all came to spread the same message. That is to say, they do not want Puget Sound Energy’s fracked gas facility in Tacoma, or anywhere. Everyone was in great spirits, with lots of hugs, greetings and photo opportunities as everyone gathered at Wrights Park.
The event kicked off with powerful song and drums from the women warriors. This was followed by introductions from the organizers and then the women from local tribal communities being honored with Sweetgrass.
The Woman’s March itself started with our lady elders at the front of the line as they led the walk, weaving their way through Wrights Park. Men, playing a supporting role, handed out fliers about the LNG plant that were prepared by RedLine Tacoma. The focus, though, was appropriately on the women. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters all marching together.
Outside city hall, despite the doors being locked, the woman gathered. The women sang together and prayed together. An impromptu rally formed as many grabbed the microphone to tell the crowd what they would have told the council. As a result, democracy wasn’t thwarted today. Hundreds of onlookers and thousands at home, because of the various live streams, were able to witness to what was being said.
Historic and Powerful
As the Woman’s March reached its conclusion, many were relieved to find a seat and sit down. Chairs, of course, were provided for the elders. Then we heard beautiful and powerful words from equally beautiful and powerful women. People were encouraged to think of the earth as a relative. There were reminders of the struggles women have overcome. The crowd was able to reflect on the noteworthy women who have led change throughout history. It was a beautiful day and an inspiring day.
At the Plaza
Dakota speaks to the council