An Indigenous Voice at the 2019 Women's March: A Speech by Christine Nobiss

Christine Nobiss, MA (Religious Studies), Plains Cree/Saulteaux of the George Gordon First Nation and Decolonizer with Seeding Sovereignty, is focused on dismantling colonial-imperialist institutions, and replacing them with Indigenous practices created in synchronicity with this land. To learn more about and to support her work, please visit www.seedingsovereignty.org.

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The Following Speech was delivered on January 18, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa at the annual Women’s March. This was Christine’s third year speaking at this event and, like the past two years, she focused on Ingenious perspectives of the Trump administration and issues relevant to Indigenous people, Iowa environmental issues and climate change. The live-stream of this speech can be found here.

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Thank you to the organizers and to everyone who braved the weather to be here today. This area now called Iowa was once home to many nations. Archaeologically, there are 28 nations that still have ties to this land. These are Dakota, Lakota, Winnebago, Sac & Fox, Ioway, Ponca Nations and many more. And of course, the Meskwaki and the Omaha—two tenacious nations that still reside here. To them and the ancestors, I say thank you.

Right now, the government is shut down because our president is having a tantrum over a useless and expensive wall that he wants to put on a colonially imposed border that already cuts across Indigenous lands and separates ancient cultures and peoples. We need to abolish border imperialism.

This is the same president that let VAWA expire. This is the same president that has put children in prison camps. The same president that denies climate change and the same president that recently invoked the wounded knee massacre to mock Elizabeth Warren--the woman he viciously calls Pocahontas.

I don’t think Trump wants the government to start up again because he knows he's gonna get impeached! So, we need to check him quick. Tribes, in particular, are among the hardest hit as they rely on many programs that are targeted by the shutdown. For instance, Native American women suffer from significantly higher rates of violence and sexual assault and many of the programs accessed by these victims are threatened right now. Our indigenous communities have the highest rates of missing and murdered woman in the country so a shutdown caused by a privileged, ego-maniacal, misogynistic, white-supremacist is a perfect example of how fascists continue to condone violence to brown people in order to coalesce power. This has been called a "shutdown of government for the poor," as many right-wing programs have not been affected--like the military or agencies that support the oil and gas industry.

Trump’s agenda is brazenly clear and a reflection of the colonial heteropatriarchy that is trying so hard to protect its place of profit and comfortability. A colonial government created on genocide, assimilation and slavery must continuously assert its dominant status in order to maintain “sovereignty security” in a country checkered with unrecognized treaties and that was built on slavery and terrorism. Thus, this white-supremacist administration is very much engaged in a culture of misogyny, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, environmental extraction and the ongoing violence of Indigenous dispossession.

However, at this moment, the marginalized are unifying and tolerance for the elite class has faded. Just a couple weeks ago, Deb Haaland, of the Pueblo of Laguna, and Sharice Davids, of the Ho-Chunk Nation, were sworn into the 116th Congress. They are the first two Native American women to accomplish this feat and, on top of that, Davids is the first ever lesbian member to be elected in the state of Kansas. It is a historic moment for obvious reasons, and a much needed moral boost for people everywhere.

Haaland and Davids share this moment with the most diverse Congress in US history which is made up of more women and people of color, who are an average 10 years younger than the last Congress. We can thank the democratic party for this as only 4.5% of incoming Republican freshman are women and the party has zero openly LGBTQ members in total. This doesn't mean the Dems are off the hook because they still have a long way to go.

Moving into 2020, let’s remember the important part that this state plays during the presidential primary season. And beyond Iowa’s caucuses, let’s be sure to address Iowa’s environmental crisis. No other landscape in the country has been biologically altered to the extent that this state has. Where there used to be woodland, oak savanna, wetland and tall-grass prairie, there are now rows and rows of industrial farms interspersed with CAFOs, urban developments, coals mines, and more.

Iowa is Big-Ag’s sacrifice zone where 90% of the land has been given over to agriculture; most of which is monocropped by GMO corn and soy and host an estimated 40 million hogs. It now has 750 impaired waterways that do not meet the clean water act standard and is currently considered the number one contributor to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tied to the environmental crisis in Iowa is the long term exploitation of immigrants who work the fields and who do other laborious industrial jobs around the state. An event of particular significance occurred in 2008, in Postville Iowa. ICE together with other agencies, executed the largest single raid of a workplace in U.S. history at a kosher meat packing plant. Nearly 400 immigrant workers were arrested and charged. With the Nation’s current immigration crisis, this issue is of particular importance here.

Iowa has no people of color in congress, but instead we have Steve King. How is that a thing? It is my mission to empower enlightened voices in order to combat climate change and make sure that white supremacists like King become a joke. I want to take on Big-Ag in a real way. Create incentives for farmers to grow healthy, organic food just like the Meskwaki are doing at Red Earth Gardens. Food sovereignty--led in by an Indigenous led regenerative economy is the answer. Some of the best minds in the world have acknowledge that traditional ecological knowledge is key to a better world and Indigenous women are leading the way in this sector. So let’s support these women and all People of color working for change. The agendas of Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids and all forward thinking legislators can only be achieved if we continue to organize, work in unity and have their backs. We want them to be able to vote based on what their constituents really want without fear of losing the next election so let’s make sure our voices our heard.


Christine Nobiss