The U.S. Pavilion in Spokane’s Riverfront Park will be awash in red light Wednesday night in recognition of killed and missing Indigenous women and girls.
The red lights are in honor of the families grieving for their lost loved ones on what has become a national day of awareness, formally known as the National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
Members of the MAC Movement — standing for music, art and creativity — organized the tribute, having been inspired by the rainbow show at the iconic park feature following the January death of Deb Abrahamson, a Colville Indian and activist for environmental justice.
“It touched our hearts with our grief,” said Drea Rose Gallardo, co-founder of the organization and Abrahamson’s niece, who organized for the pavilion to turn red. “We wanted to make it red for those dealing with the grieving and to hopefully reach those that are in power to make changes and address these issues.”
Gallardo said the issue is especially relevant in Spokane. Of the roughly 110 Indigenous people the Washington State Patrol lists as missing as of April 2021, about 50 are from Eastern Washington.
Alexus Gallaway-Tonasket, secretary of MAC Movement and a Colville Indian, remembers walking with her grandmother as a child and, between lessons about native plants, looking for bones. Two of Gallaway-Tonasket’s uncles have been missing since the 1980s and her grandmother continues to hope to find their bones, she said.
“It’s the closure and just — she loves very deeply even after people pass away. She’s very committed. She would go and visit them where they’re buried frequently so for her to not have that is a loss on top of a huge loss,” Gallaway-Tonasket said.
Gallardo has similar stories.
“It really affects all of us because all of us know or are related to someone who has gone missing or been murdered,” Gallaway-Tonasket said. “I think people need to know the depth of the issue and how difficult it is for Indigenous people to get any relief.”
Among other artistic acts, the group painted sidewalk cracks red to represent the people who have fallen through the cracks.
The Washington State Women’s Commission will hold a panel discussion for the day of awareness via Zoom.