TULALIP — Along walkways, on street signs and guardrails on Marine Drive, dozens of red dresses marked the path to the Tulalip Gathering Hall, where over 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember the missing and murdered Thursday night.
“People were commenting that they can see faces in the dresses,” Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia said. “Who knows how long those faces have been missing? It brings that awareness that the spirits really are being honored and that they’re being seen.”
Thursday was Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. The Tulalip event aimed to heal and understand the history.
“As Native people, violence against women is not natural,” Cass Rae, Tulalip Children’s Advocacy Center family advocate said, opening the gathering. “It’s not part of our tradition. It’s a direct result of the process of colonization.”
Tulalip tribal members shared stories of survival. Women shared ways they said they’ve had to adapt to stay safe: Don’t walk alone; don’t walk with headphones in; check your surroundings. They encouraged kids in attendance to do the same.
This is a daily reality for Indigenous people, said Teri Gobin, chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes.
“A lot of people just disappear and that’s it,” she said.
Early Thursday, Ordonia painted dresses for the vigil. White letters read, “Say her name!” with references to women who have gone missing or were killed in recent years.
Seattle has the highest rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of 71 cities studied by the Urban Indian Health Institute in 2018.
“It’s right here in our backyard this is going on,” Gobin said. “People need to get their justice and to bury their relatives, otherwise it’s kind of like they don’t get that closure.”
Tulalip tribal member Mary Ellen Johnson-Davis has been missing for over a year.
Her last known text, around 2 p.m. Nov. 25, 2020, alerted a friend she was “almost to the church” on 140th Street NW, also known as Fire Trail Road. But he didn’t hear from her again. Her cellphone later connected to towers around north Snohomish County.
“There’s so many more names that we don’t even know of that have gone missing in the last 10, 20, 30 years,” Ordonia said.
Tips regarding Johnson-Davis can be directed to 360-716-5918. The case number is #20-3063.