High school track star Rosalie Fish is a class act. At the recent Class 1B meet at Eastern Washington University, she ran not only to win but to share a message about the unacceptable violence that Native American women face every day.
In a special report to The Seattle Times, Dave Trimmer shared Fish’s story. She is a member of the Cowlitz Tribe. At the meet, she quietly and respectfully brought attention to missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW). She painted those initials on her leg and a red hand over her mouth symbolizing the inability of many victims to speak for themselves. And she won four medals in their honor.
Those might seem small things, but they were effective. Her message is spreading.
Violence against indigenous women and girls has reached a crisis point. More than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women experience sexual violence during their lifetimes, and murder is the third-leading cause of death among them.
Yet the legislative response has been tepid. In Congress, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 would require the Interior Department to hire someone to coordinate a federal response to the crisis. It also would create an advisory committee to study it. Meanwhile, a state bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee this year encourages better data collection and creates liaison positions for better relations between tribes and state police.
The federal bill remains stalled in committees, and the state bill is only small progress. Neither provides the bold policies and interventions that the crisis demands. They study and increase bureaucracy while women suffer.
Fish declared that’s not good enough. This is an imperative issue for her, for indigenous tribes, for our state and for the nation.
What is most impressive about Fish’s act was the maturity with which she delivered her message. She didn’t grandstand. She didn’t disrupt the meet. And she didn’t make everything about her. To their credit, the organizers, coaches, fans and other competitors didn’t twist her statement into controversy, unlike NFL owners upset with kneeling players.
Fish is headed to college in Iowa in the fall. We have no doubt that she will well represent these women, her community and all of Washington as she continues to run and to lead.