But why the Peoples March? Why reference what was essentially the second wave of marchers as the Peoples March? We chose that term because of politics from certain quarters seemed hellbent to discredit "the OIC march" and chose to intimidate and marginalize our efforts. So we chose to create our own identity.
We refused to be intimidated. We refused to be marginalized. Some of the larger groups helped us out. The National Congress of American Indians donated their Refuse, Rethink, Rename t-shirts to our group. Change The Mascots provided us with us with some of their signs. And we showed we didn't need the glamor, we didn't need the glitter, we didn't need academic speakers or politicians. We didn't need the National Coalition Against Racism and Sports to speak for us or represent us. We represented ourselves. When we marched into the TCF Bank stadium, we were like Zapata riding into Mexico City. Even after the rumors were spread last night that our march - the Peoples March - was going to be in violation of city ordinances and people would be arrested and people were discouraged from joining the "OIC march," the people nevertheless came and marched. We marched down the streets, without a permit, escorted by the Minneapolis Police Department. We took it to the streets and 1400+ strong were seen and heard. Some people tried to marginalize us and undermine our effort, but you can't marginalize a community nor undermine a community that wants to be heard. Most importantly, this march wasn't about organizations - it was about the people.
The turnout for the Peoples March was impressive. At the rally held at American Indian OIC, approximately 200-300 people had gathered. But once the march hit the streets, the ranks of the marchers grew as more and more people joined the march. By the time we reached the last stretch of the march on University Avenue, the marchers numbered 1400 or more. But what was striking was the diversity of the marchers - both Natives and non-Natives united in a common cause. We had become One Drum, Many Singers - a community united together to speak out and march against what was essentially a violation of civil rights that was generated by discriminatory images evoked by Dan Snyder and his team.
When we did converge, we converged with several thousand. None of the grassroots organizations that organized the Peoples March were invited to speak.on the main stage. But I think I speak for the other organizers when I say that we really didn't care that we were marginalized from speaking on the grand stand. We had accomplished our goal of bringing people to the rally at TCF Bank stadium. Although there were difficulties and division leading up to the march and rally, we did share a common goal of bringing awareness of the mascot issue to the national media and sending a message to Dan Snyder.
Although we were turned away from the main stage, our organizers moved over to the TCF Tribal Plaza. Our speakers were heard and entertainment was provided. Thus, the agenda we set out for ourselves when we first began organizing our march was fulfilled.
As it turned out, the media found me. I found a spot to sit and rest. I was worn down. The walk across the bridge took a lot out of me. When we reached University Avenue, I had to turn my eagle staff over and slow down. My internal warning system was starting to flash red for caution. I could have easily rode the rest of the way in one of our escort vehicles, but I didn't want to do that because I wanted to finish the march. Once we reached the stadium and the rally, I sat down and the media converged on me for interviews - Washington Post, CBS, NBC, Fox, and several Native news sources.
One of the things I talked about was my regalia. My regalia was the message. I talked about how everything I wore had meaning to it. It wasn't to play at being Native or to honor a so-called vanished past. I spoke about eagle feathers and that eagle feathers are sacred to us. We have origin stories about the sacredness of eagle feathers. And that I was offended whenever I saw Washington fans in their fake headdresses - and such headdresses were an affront and mockery of our cultures. Our feathers are not from a dead past - but it is part of a living culture and one that we honor and celebrate today.
Ultimately, I hope there is a day when we can overcome internal differences and factionalism that seems to underscore our efforts to overcome the stereotypes that all of us seek an end to. When I was speaking at American Indian OIC before the march, I was looking down and over the crowd, and I was looking at the children who were there to march with us. And I thought that some day these children will be parents, and they will tell their own children about the day they marched through the streets with thousands of people. And when their children ask why, they will say: "Because there was a time when white people made fun of us. They dressed up in phony eagle feathers, wore war paint, and yelled and whopped for their football team. But on that day when I marched with all those other children and adults, was the day when the ending began and you, my beautiful child, don't have to live in a world that mocks your culture."
Chi-miigwech to all those who came and walked the streets with us. Together we made it happen.
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