The 19th annual International Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle saw Native people and their allies gather in the downtown Westlake Park for an afternoon of solidarity and a vibrant display of Indigenous cultural expression. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a response to the racist Christopher Columbus holiday.
The event opened with dynamic drumming and singing from the Sacred Water Canoe Family. Juan Bocanegra, of the May 1st Organizing Committee spoke of his experiences organizing for Chicano/Native unity with Leonard Peltier prior to Peltier’s imprisonment. He also described the struggle of many immigrants in the King County area who are Indigenous people from Mexico or Guatemala.
Aaron Mercredi of the Mobilization Against War and Occupation in Vancouver, B.C., spoke of the struggle of Native people in Canada, which in the past year has gained international attention with the Idle No More movement. He also talked about the importance of the struggle against imperialism worldwide.
Jane Cutter of the ANSWER Coalition focused on the issue of freedom for Leonard Peltier and all political prisoners. She led the crowd in a moment of silence for Herman Wallace of the Angola 3, who recently passed away after 41 years of solitary confinement.
Dr. Patricia Ann Davis, Dine, spoke about the struggle against “the criminal mindset” that promotes racism, sexism, environmental destruction and other evils.
Jay Hollingsworth is a local Native activist who is currently serving on a committee to attempt to reform the Seattle Police Department and its use of force regulations. In 2010, Seattle police officer shot and killed Native woodcarver John T. Williams. This case drew massive protest. Outrage around this killing was one of the factors that led to a federal Department of Justice investigation into the SPD.
Olivia One-Feather spoke passionately about many issues. She resonated with Hollingsworth’s presentation as she herself had been assaulted by police on May Day when she called out cops for assaulting another woman. She also spoke about the struggle against Monsanto and the genetic modification of seeds, especially corn.
The rally concluded with a dynamic performance by the Aztec Dancers.