Arizona’s indigenous women led the Phoenix Women’s March

PHOENIX – As the sounds of the traditional drumming filled the air at the Arizona State Capitol, indigenous women gathered to raise awareness of an issue specific to their community: the increase of missing and murdered women on reservations and nearby towns.

Cher Thomas sings with other indigenous women at the beginning of the Phoenix Women’s March at the State Capitol. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

“In the state of Arizona, we have had many issues and many problems with women being murdered and missing and raped and kidnapped,” said Cher Thomas, a member of the Akimel O’odham and Cocopah tribes. “Because of jurisdictional issues it can become very difficult to prosecute people who have committed such heinous acts, especially on Indian reservations.”

According to the Urban Indian Health Institute, Arizona ranks as the third highest state for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. In 2016, there were 54 cases. Only New Mexico and Washington had more cases.

Kristin Payestewa, whose cousin Lori Piestewa was the first Native American woman to die in combat as a member of U.S. military, also participated in the women’s march. Her hope for the march was to connect and have meaningful conversations with women from other communities.

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“Today represents a lot of resilience for women in all diversities and all aspects,” Payestewa said. “One thing that we do have in common is that we all have been through some pain, some trauma so right now I feel like we stand together in a message that we are here and it’s time to start healing each other.”

“As we walk through this march singing, we are going to bring that good spirit with us,” Thomas said. “The spirit of these mountains, the spirit of this land and to bring peace to everybody.”

Many non-Native American women and men also took part in the march. Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated that 6,700 people participated in the march Saturday, according to azcentral.com.

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The streets of downtown Phoenix are filled with people as the Phoenix Women's March proceeds back toward the State Capitol. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

John Molina of the San Carlos Apache Tribe takes part in the Phoenix Women's March. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

Karma Abeita marches to raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

Indigenous women sing at the beginning of the Phoenix Women's March at the State Capitol. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

Kristin Payestewa (center) marches with other indigenous women as they lead the Phoenix Women's March. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

Gina Reyes of the Izkaloteka Tribe dances at the end of the Phoenix Women's March at the State Capitol. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

Kiona Arellanes chants and marches with other indigenous people as they lead the Phoenix Women's March. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

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