On the back of his off-white 2011 Majestic E-450 RV, Duane Garvais Lawrence had written “MMIW” on the top of the rear window in red ink. Below, 77 names of native women were carefully written.
“We have about 30 more names to add to this list today,” he said, referring to the new names given to him by tribes in Washington and Idaho. These are the names of murdered and missing Indigenous women from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. “We will add them after the race today.”
Indigenous members and supporters came to show their solidarity with murdered and missing Indigenous women during the 2021 MMIW Bike Run.
Garvais Lawrence created a stir after reading Savanna’s Act, a set of law enforcement and justice protocols for dealing with missing or murdered Native Americans, most of whom were women.
“It touched me as a father,” he said. Garvais Lawrence counts five daughters among his seven children with his wife, LoVina Louie.
Garvais Lawrence hosted the inaugural race last year, with few supporters due to the pandemic. He persisted, noting that violence against Indigenous women has been a problem for centuries. Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered with little or no conviction rate, according to a US Department of Justice study.
The cross-country race, which started in Olympia at the Washington State Capitol, will end in Washington, DC. The goal is to meet Deb Haaland, Home Secretary and the first Native American to serve as Cabinet Secretary. In this capacity, Haaland oversees public lands, national parks and wildlife refuges, as well as the Office of Indian Affairs.
“We want to sit down and talk with her to see if we can create some kind of new law or legislative action, where if you are the American lawyer and I present a case to you, she will not be included in their prosecution file. “Said Gervais Lawrence.” If they know that these cases (about missing and murdered Indigenous women) aren’t going to give them a chance to win, they won’t take it into their own hands.
Last week’s run in Idaho began at the Church of the Mission of the Sacred Heart through reserved land and ended 40 miles north of Fighting Creek. Before the morning run, Garvais Lawrence and members of the community held a tribal ceremony.
Garvais Lawrence, a member of the Colville and Assiniboine Sioux tribes, and his eldest daughter, Daisy Garvais, squeezed red paint on their hands. Red represents the blood that binds the tribes, but also the blood spilled by missing women.
“This color is violence but also strength and love,” said Daisy Garvais. “Red is a powerful color in Aboriginal culture. “
University of Washington runner and Cowlitz Tribe member Rosalie Fish popularized the red hand symbol after competing at the 2019 Washington State 1B Track and Field Championships in Cheney. the hand is placed over the mouth, a symbol of how indigenous women are taken from behind. and pushed into vehicles, never to be seen again.
Ash-colored clouds brought a slight, steep pinch during the hand-painting session. Garvais Lawrence began to applaud the rain.
But for Marlene Sproul, a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, who stood nearby as the rain fell, an overwhelming wave of pain and grief lingered. Her younger sister, Tina Marie Finley, went missing on March 7, 1988.
“We still haven’t located it and it still hurts,” Sproul said. “They said this stuff heals, but the pain never goes away. It’s a hole in your heart that can never be filled.
The run was a reminder, highlighting individual distress, but a piece of the puzzle of the generational violence and trauma that permeates the Indigenous population.
“We are all a tribe, all married to each other and linked as parents,” Sproul said. “When a person goes missing, we all feel it. We all know where this person lives and what family they belong to. It’s a chain reaction between all of us.
After moving behind the church, the ceremony began with Louie’s tearful dedication to the 3,213 bodies of Indigenous children recently found in mass graves at residential schools in the United States and Canada. She decorated eight armbands for runners to wear at their checkpoints, which must be delivered to Haaland when MMIW travelers arrive in Washington, DC Her parents, Jeanie and Deb Louie, who attended the ceremony, both attended survived boarding schools as a teenager.
“We can only pray that murdered children and missing and murdered women are reunited in the spiritual realm,” said Deb Louie.
Gene “Hemi” James, secretary-treasurer of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council, paid tribute to his mother, who was murdered by her non-native boyfriend on June 10, 1995. The native youth performed traditional songs and ceremonial before the race as elders. conducts prayer songs. Following the ceremony, eagle feathers, a symbol of Louie and Garvais Lawrence’s partnership, family and tribal ties, were presented to those who participated in the 40-mile hike to Fighting Creek. Sproul and his sister, Debora Garcia, and his niece Mandy Long, wore the eagle feathers first, as Finley’s closest relative.
“This race is for Tina Marie Finley,” Garvais Lawrence reminded the group. “Think about her with every step. Every inch is for Tina today.
The runners tied the eagle feathers in their hair and continued on the journey in honor of Finley, 40 miles away to Fighting Creek and 2,504 miles from Haaland’s office in the nation’s capital.