Today, about 94% of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people will experience violence in their lifetimes; and in Washington, more than four times more Indigenous women go missing than white women, according to research conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle.
The MMIWG2S crisis is not just a matter of the violence perpetrated against women, girls and two-spirit people, but also the failure of institutions to track that violence and offer solutions that would provide safety and accountability. As Annita Lucchesi, founder and director of research and outreach at Sovereign Bodies Institute, puts it: "Our relatives go missing three times: once in life, in the data and in the media."
What accounts for that? The legacy of colonization, white supremacy, and loopholes in the government’s handling of crimes. Since the enactment of the Major Crimes Act of 1885, tribal courts have not been able to prosecute non-Native criminals even if they live on a reservation. This means that perpetrators often escape accountability, enabling the crisis to proliferate.
Rosalie Fish has made it her mission to help stop that proliferation and ensure that the memory of those lost is never forgotten.
A member of the Cowlitz tribe who grew up on the Muckleshoot Reservation, Fish is a University of Washington student and runner who uses her running as a means to advocate for and raise awareness of MMIWG2S.
Fish initially found running as a way to manage her then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Running helped provide a routine and regulate her emotions. However, after joining her tribal school track team, she felt a responsibility to do more than simply run for the sake of running, so she channeled her talent into a cause much bigger than herself. Now, when she runs with a red handprint on her face, a nationally recognized symbol of the MMIWG2S movement, she brings visibility and voice to the voiceless.
I spoke with Fish about her journey and her mission, then hopped into a canoe with her and her Muckleshoot Tribal family to experience one of her most beloved outdoor activities, outside of her activism. Historically the Muckleshoot and Cowlitz people traveled by the waters; their lives revolved around the ocean and rivers. Practicing canoeing along these traditional highways is how Rosalie connects with nature and her people.