Rosalie Fish – MMIW Activist Will Run for University of Washington

During the NCAA recruiting process, runners often discuss things like training expectations, academic majors, and team dynamics with a potential college coach. But Rosalie Fish, who is currently running for Iowa Central Community College, was looking for a different kind of support; the Cowlitz Tribal member wanted to know if he could count on his trainer as an ally.

Since her senior year of high school, the 20-year-old from Auburn, Washington, has dedicated her championship performances to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), a crisis in which Indigenous women from some reservations are murdered at a rate higher than 10 times the national average, Data from the Department of Justice find.

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Before Fish decided to commit to the University of Washington, he had an open conversation with program director Maurica Powell. Fish said they talked about her work as an activist and the additional support she might need from her coach.

“I leave [Powell] I know that here at the NJCAA level, I had to fight for my right to use the handprint in racing and that my coaches should be a part of that fight with me, ”Fish said. Runner world. “I asked her if she would be willing to side with me if it ever came down to that, and she said she would absolutely support me when it came to running for indigenous women.”

On January 12, 2021, Fish signed his national letter of intent to run for the Huskies in Seattle, Washington, a team that has finished in the top 13 in five of the last six NCAA cross country championships.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to represent all the tribes of Washington,” said Fish. “There are almost 30 diverse tribes in the state itself, and honestly, almost all the tribes in Washington have impacted who I am and how I have grown up. And I am truly honored to have the opportunity to positively represent the tribes on the Pac-12. [Conference] level.”

Find a source of empowerment

Fish was inspired to raise awareness through running after seeing Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel run the 2019 Boston Marathon with a red handprint and MMIW painted on his body. The Kul Wičasa Lakota runner marked each of the 42 miles with a prayer for an indigenous woman who was a victim of violence, giving Fish hope when she needed a boost.

“I faced some discrimination as a native runner [when I was a senior at Muckleshoot Tribal School]”Said Fish.” They weren’t signing me up for some competitive competitions, even though I had reached qualifying time. And when I asked why, the answer would be something like ‘Well, I’ve never heard of your school before’, so I had already felt a bit isolated and alone. ”

Seeing a fellow indigenous woman use running as a form of activism empowered Fish to take action. “It reminded me of the power we have in our communities and the power that lies within our identities and who we are as Native peoples, and it made me realize that I never wanted to feel isolated, alone or powerless again. Fish said.

rosalie fish

Paul DeCoursey

In May 2019, Fish ran the Washington State Track and Field competition with a red footprint painted over his mouth and the letters MMIW written on his leg, and he won the 800, 1600 and 3200 meters, and finished second in the 400. meters. He dedicated each event to an indigenous woman who was killed in the epidemic.Alice looney, Jacqueline salyers, Renee Davis, and Misty Upham. Looney is Fish’s aunt.

While the crisis has left Fish feeling powerless at times, runners like Daniel have shown him opportunities to use his voice and ultimately given him hope for the future.

“Running can be a platform and a form of empowerment,” said Fish. “I think that helped me get out of those lows for sure. They showed me that you can do something about it because feeling powerless is probably the only thing that will stop you in your tracks and keep you there. “

‘It’s not political, it’s human’

In the fall of 2019, Fish joined the Iowa Central Community College track and cross-country team in Fort Dodge, Iowa. From the beginning, she wanted to continue to raise awareness about MMIW at the NJCAA level, and the head coach of Central Iowa Dee Brown said he hoped she would reach out to him to continue her activism, an initiative he appreciated.

“It gives other people a little more courage to open their minds and think about what else is going on in the world, to think about what else I could do. How else could it make a difference? “Brown said Runner world. “I really respect that.”

“I can never change that I am indigenous, and especially I cannot change the fact that I, my family, my community is affected by the crisis of the disappeared and murdered indigenous women.”

At the beginning of her freshman season with the Tritons, Brown and Fish worked together to ensure that she would not violate any of the NJCAA competition rules by dedicating their careers to MMIW. When they approached the coaches association and the chairpersons of sports committees, they initially encountered some resistance from the governing body, and had to clarify that Fish’s initiative would not be a political statement. After much discussion, Fish was authorized to run for MMIW at the NJCAA championships.

“It’s a part of my identity that I can’t change,” said Fish. “I can never change that I am indigenous, and especially I cannot change the fact that I, my family, my community is affected by the crisis of the disappeared and murdered indigenous women. For me, that is not being a politician. For me, that’s being human. “

With a red handprint over his mouth and MMIW written in red paint on his right leg, Fish finished 35th overall and contributed to the Tritons’ team title at the NJCAA Cross-Country Championship on the 9th. November 2019. After the Albuquerque race, Fish posted on the MMIW crisis in New Mexico, which leads the nation as the state with the highest number of cases with 78, according to a 2017 study from the Urban Indian Health Institute .

A domino effect

In her two years at Iowa Central Community College, Fish’s activism has also encouraged other athletes to run for causes that are important to them. Brown, who said he had never seen any athlete use running as a platform for activism before Fish in his 25 years of training, noticed that a runner from another school was running with a red print on his mouth and MMIW written on his body in 2020. NJCAA Half Marathon Championships.

“It was quite remarkable and perhaps not so casual to see that. Whenever you do something like that, I’m sure Rosalie would say the same thing, you don’t expect to get the attention of millions of heads, but if you can get the attention of one person and that person will get the attention of one more person. It’s that little domino effect, ”Brown said. “I’m proud of her … People notice these things and they want to be around someone who stands up for other people.”

rosalie fish

Fish, left, runs in the NJCAA half marathon championship with his Central Iowa teammates.

Paul DeCoursey

On March 6, Fish, Nadesha Wallace, Lilia Alvarez and Chloe Lenoir won the combined distance relay at the NJCAA indoor track and field championship. During the race, each runner wore masks and body paint that read #I also.

According to Fish, using sport as a vehicle for activism is an opportunity that athletes should seize. “I think it’s almost essential that athletes recognize the role they play as leaders,” said Fish. “Whether they want to be or not, they are role models and are providing, I would say, representation of what is acceptable. There are many people who admire athletes. … I think it’s essential that we recognize our platform on that. “

As a member of the NJCAA Council of Student-Athletes, Fish also advocates for indigenous communities off the track. In February, he proposed that the NJCAA partner with Rising Hearts, an indigenous-led grassroots organization committed to raising indigenous voices, to implement the Native Land Run Toolkit for competitions. In Central Iowa, she specializes in human services and hopes to enter the school of social work in Washington. After graduating, Fish would like to pursue a career helping victims of violence in indigenous communities.

Heading into the next chapter of her running career in Washington, Fish said she expects a challenge. But you’re honing your confidence by focusing on how you can help MMIW victims and their families.

“It’s not really about me anymore,” he said. “It’s about what platform I can use, and if I have the opportunity to race on a platform like the Pac-12, run with the handprint and reach so many people, there is no way I can’t take it.”

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