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Reno Women's March Spotlights Indigenous Missing and Murder Cases

Jana Sayson
Jingle Dress Dancers of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Pow Wow Club marched at the helm of the crowd at the third annual Women’s March in Reno. ";

Dozens of indigenous women were the first people to march down Virginia Street this year in support of progressive causes, beating drums and dancing while wearing traditional jingle dresses. 

"Every jingle on our jingle dresses represents a prayer,” said Cheryl Johnson. She's a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and one of the jingle dress dancers. "As we dance, we are going to be praying for not only all of the women, but for native causes as well."

They're marching for native causes like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Movement, which is meant to call attention to the high number of women from tribal communities who have unsolved missing or murder cases.

A study from the Urban Indian Health Institute said that in 2016, more than 5,700 missing or murdered women from indigenous communities were reported; however, only 116 of those cases were logged in a US Department of Justice database.

It's the second year in a row that tribal members have led Reno's march. Even though there are hundreds of Women's Marches across the US, many indigenous people decided to come to Reno because of its focus on native issues, including Danny Snapp, who drove six hours from Oregon.

"I brought a bunch of people from the Burns-Paiute community to join the march today,” Snapp said.

Lawana Martinez lives in Reno and is a member of the Pit River Modoc Tribe. She is marching in honor of her cousin's daughter.

"Amber Hope McDonnell, who was murdered when she was 15,” Martinez said. “And it was never solved, so I'm hoping today, together, our sisters and brothers that come, that we stand strong and hope that this ends. It shows that we can be strong even in the weakest times in our lives."

The Women's March began in January of 2017, coinciding with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. In the past year, the movement has been mired in controversy over issues of racism and anti-Semitism in its national leadership.

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