PORT TOWNSEND — An estimated 1,000 people marched down Water Street in Port Townsend during the third annual Olympic Peninsula Womxn’s Wave, expressing solidarity with indigenous peoples, women, marginalized people and the queer community.
The event started with a blessing from tribal community members who helped lead the group to Pope Marine Park, where several people spoke and the crowd joined together in song.
Before the march began, Sabrina McQuillen Hill, a member of the Makah Tribe who lives in Port Townsend, spoke about missing and murdered Native American women.
“Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average while the whole native population … makes up 2 percent of America’s population today,” McQuillen Hill said.
She spoke of Valerie Claplanhoo, a Makah woman who was found dead earlier this month in her Sequim apartment and said that statistics about missing and murdered Native American women are under reported.
“These numbers are staggering and so little is being done about it,” she said. “I ask that you remember our abused and stolen sisters.”
Kurt Grinnell, who serves on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council, commended the men who attended the march to “stick up and support our mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts.”
Grinnell, like many who spoke, focused on violence against Native American women.
“When I go to the National Congress of American Indian conferences, we talk about the abuse of our Indian women on and off our reservation and it’s a problem that we have been trying to eradicate for many, many years and we have not given up on that,” Grinnell said.
He said that as a social worker it’s heartbreaking to see how women are treated.
“You can’t unsee what I’ve seen,” he said. “We must take care of them; we must take care of each other.”
Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean took the stage together to read a proclamation declaring that Sunday was Womxn’s March Day.
Stinson told the crowd that there is still more work to do and that elected officials need their support to get the job done.
“As an elected official, we cannot do it without you. Voting is only the first step,” Stinson said. “We must stand by those we elected to help them get the job done.”
Dean, who was recently named chair of the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners, highlighted that there are many elected women in the Port Townsend area.
Though there are many elected women in the area, she said they face things that male politicians don’t have to deal with.
“There are the things I have to think about every day: what do I wear?” Dean said to a laughing crowd. “Because to be credible in politics as a woman you have to be just attractive enough, but not too attractive because that would be distracting.
“That is the reality of being a politician today, so let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve got a long way to go.”
She urged people to vote and to run for office, saying that equity will not be given without a fight.
“Let’s change the sea of white faces I see every day looking out today at the courthouse and the Legislature,” Dean said. “We need to mix it up folks”
Shewa Dedeke of Port Angeles told the crowd she was speaking for women who have been victims of sexual assault and harassment.
“Me Too is a movement to, among other things, radicalize the notion of mass healing,” Dedeke said, before sharing a poem she wrote for a friend.
“The Me Too movement created room for validating and acknowledging survivors, but it also showed the magnitude of sexual assault,” Dedeke said. “I created this poem to show my friend she is not alone. I wanted my friend to know I am here for her and as I read this piece I want all survivors who can hear my voice to know I am here for you too.”
Eamon Redding, a queer advocate from Port Townsend, told the crowd they were there to talk about “queer stuff.”
“When systemic and social inequities create … injustice, we must mobilize,” Redding said. “We must refuse injustice and protect communities and people from persecution.”
Redding said it is paramount to be open and protective of the marginalized and told the crowd of the recent death of Dana Martin, a black transgender woman who was killed in Alabama earlier this month.
“Dana Martin is one of many names I’ll be saying this year in remembrance,” Redding said. “2018 was a bit more dangerous than usual.”
Redding asked people in the crowd to examine their own biases and said there is a need to look at people who are in prison as humans and begin talking about divestment from prisons.
“If our feminism, our sense of what is just, does not include the most marginalized of society, we are not being truthful,” Redding said. “We live in a system created to uphold the values of capitalist white supremacy of the prison and military industrial complexes and patriarchy. Without such systems, what would our world look like?”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.