Considering this election-cycle brought us He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and a bunch of white men who want to regulate my body, my choices, my earth, my water, my tribal sovereignty and my indelible human rights, with zero regard for me or my belief system – and because I am a 17-year-old Native woman who is a rape survivor, a Two-Spirit/LGBTQ ally and free thinker – I couldn’t stand by and willingly hand over my choices as a woman. Along with other Indigenous women, I decided I would join the Women’s March on Oklahoma in Oklahoma City on Saturday, January 21 .
(For those of you not familiar with my state, let me just say that it is RED, which is code for Republican, conservative and Christian. It is also home to 38 federally recognized tribal nations. Our attorney general, Scott Pruitt, doesn’t believe in climate change or that we need to protect the environment has recently been nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency.)
On the morning of the march, I wondered how many people would show up. Estimates were that 2,500 to 4,500 people would show. Not bad for our small state, with a population of only 3.9 million, I thought.
My happy band of protesters included my mom, Maddie Lamb (Muscogee Creek), Rita Courtright (Muscogee Creek), Meika Price (Muscogee Creek) and Gina Olaya (Cherokee Nation and daughter of the late Chief Wilma Mankiller).
Maddie and I decided to wear traditional clothing to represent the Native Women we love and respect.
When we arrived, you could feel the excitement in the air. The parking was horrific, which we took as a good sign that thousands of Oklahomans were joining together to support women’s rights.
I decided to wear my red jingle dress.
It is a healing dress that is especially meaningful to me. This is my first jingle dress made for me since my rape. Each cone is filled with prayers not only for my healing but for all people who have survived rape. The cones are also filled with prayers that include those struggling with health issues, for my tribe and its leaders, and for our planet. I wanted to use the healing for this march for women, Indigenous women, and all the participants.
As we approached the Capitol building, we realized that the crowd was huge, beyond anything I could have imagined — 12,000 was the official estimate. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and ages were straining to hear the speakers.
The smell of tacos wafted over the crowd, which made everyone hungry. While it was cool and overcast, the smiles were warm and genuine. Everyone was excited and you could feel it. Our merry band of Indigenous women protesters began reading everyone else’s signs.
The following are just a few that we loved:
It was a great day. Everyone was peaceful and friendly and I walked away empowered to continue supporting the Violence Against Women’s Act and the needs of Indigenous women. The VAWA is currently being considered for reduced or zero funding by this new administration.
I am empowered.
I am empowered to continue speaking out until the crime of rape no longer exists.
I am empowered to demand that human rights are equal rights.
I am empowered to demand that clean water and air are basic human rights.
I am empowered to demand that tribal sovereignty and treaties be enforced.
I am empowered to demand that my salary equal a man’s salary.
I am empowered to demand that my body means that it is my choice.
I am empowered to demand a college education.
Cierra Fields is a member of the Cherokee Nation, a 2016 White House Changemaker, proud 2014 Center for Native American Youth Champion for Change and a 2016 UNITY 25 under 25 Honoree. She is currently forming a group for the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter at @CierraFields918