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Women Of Color Lead Reno Women's March

Bree Zender
Indigenous women performing the jingle dress dance, leading over 10,000 people in protest for women's rights and other progressive causes.

Women of color, specifically indigenous women, led the way for the second-annual Women's March in Reno on Saturday. 

Indigenous women and girls from tribes across North America stood in a single line stretching across the blocked-off streets downtown. Each was wearing brightly-colored dresses, decorated with traditional beading and small metal bells that jingle when they move. Behind them was a crowd of about 10,000 protesters according to the Reno Police Department, waiting to start marching for women's rights and various other progressive issues.

Credit Bree Zender
Native American women and girls prepare to lead thousands of protesters through downtown Reno.

But rather than simply marching, the women and girls danced their way down the protest route. 

One of these dancers was Teresa Melendez, who lives in Reno. She's a tribal member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatami, from the Michigan area.

"The jingle dress is a ceremonial dance," Melendez said. "And it's a medicine dance. [The organizers] wanted to start this event with good energy, with prayer, healing and just that feminine energy."

By asking Native American women to lead the protestors, Reno March organizers wanted to call attention to issues specifically indigenous women often face. Activists said they are three times as likely to experience sexual abuse and three-and-a-half times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime.Specifically in Canada--there's nearly 1,000 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women that have gone unsolved.

Organizer Mylan Hawkins said march leaders, along with native groups, wore red to the march in remembrance of the missing and the murdered Native American women.

"No recognition is ever made when a Native American woman goes missing or is murdered," Hawkins said.

Also wearing red to support indigenous women was 19-year-old Megan Lynn Lewis. She kicked off the rally before the march with a speech.


Credit Bree Zender
Megan Lynn Lewis gives the opening speech to Reno's second-annual Women's March on January 20, 2018.

"On a daily basis, I see at least three things that ignite my outrage," Lewis said to the crowd. "The first [being] the racist rhetoric always coming from the highest official office. The second being the normalization by a certain political party. And the third one being the consistent threat to my family, whether it's attacks on healthcare or nuclear fallout."

Lewis was born and raised in Reno and became active in politics during the 2016 primary season, when she was 17. She said it's an improvement to see more women of color in Reno, such as herself, being prominently featured in and physically leading this march.

"I think that this year, there's a lot more attention on it from our community. I can't speak on every Women's March, but I think that this Women's March definitely stands for all women's reproductive freedoms, all women's freedoms in general," Lewis said. "And I think that, you know, we should be a definite role model to every other march because we're pretty incredible here in Reno, Nevada."

In addition, there was also a march in Kings Beach. One of those protesters is Silke Pflueger, who lives part-time in Truckee. Pfluger also makes pussy hats--those popular pink beanies with cat ears that Women's March protesters often wear--and other crochet projects and sells them for donations to progressive causes.She was born in Germany and has lived in the United States for 25 years. She said she is afraid that with the actions this administration has made on immigration, that history may repeat itself.

Credit Bree Zender
Silke Pflueger crocheting in a Truckee coffee shop. She makes pussy hats and other crocheted pieces to sell as a donation to various progressive causes.

"You know, one of my grandfathers was a big Nazi," Pflueger said. "The others were all what we call 'mitläufer' which are people that just didn't say anything and just did the Nazi stuff. And so I really, really, really wanted to do something."


Marches across the country also highlighted movements that have gained momentum in the past year, such as the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and violence, and resistance to restricted immigration.


Credit Bree Zender
Protesters wait near the federal building in Reno for the second-annual Women's March to begin.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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