A third annual Women’s March is happening Saturday in cities across the country. But events scheduled in Missoula and Kalispell are steering clear of the national march’s agenda.
Lauren Small Rodriguez is one of the organizers of an entirely Native-led vigil for missing and murdered indigenous women taking place Saturday in Missoula.
"Really the priority is hearing the voices of the mothers, the aunties, the grandmothers, the sisters of those who have been murdered in horrendous, horrendous crimes," she says.
Small Rodriguez is a Northern Cheyenne woman from Lame Deer, where the body of 14-year-old Henny Scott, a local high school freshman, was found in December.
Scott was one of over a dozen indigenous women or girls who went missing in Montana last year alone.
Saturday’s vigil will take place on the oval at the University of Montana at noon. Volunteers will hand out candles and scheduled speakers include tribal leaders, investigators and families of victims.
"We're just asking everyone to please be a part of it," says Small Rodriguez. "To please attend, to listen to these stories, to be educated on what steps can we take, you know, who can we call, what can we do, where do we travel."
Also at noon on Saturday, a Women’s March is taking place at Depot Park in Kalispell.
Last year’s inaugural Kalispell Women’s March drew a crowd of about 500. This year, they’re hoping for a bigger turnout and have added food vendors and music. They also plan to draw attention to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Kwen Shirley, an event spokesperson, says even though the Kalispell march has stepped away from the national Women’s March, some people still view it as an anti-Trump event. There are concerns about a potential counter-rally in Kalispell.
"It's really hard for me to sit there and listen to people say how much they're against it when we're going to be having a conversation about murdered and missing indigenous women," says Shirley. "So what part of activism for missing and murdered indigenous women are you against? What part of making lives easier and better for LGBT Flathead youth are you against?"
Find out more about the Kalispell Women's March on their website.
Find out more about Missoula's Native Led MMIW Vigil on facebook.