Reimagine Seattle: Roxanne White

The challenges of the past year have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. With the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project, we invited community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by the events of 2020, and their hopes for the future of our city.

Reimagine Seattle

by Roxanne White

I am Roxanne White. I am Nez Perce, Yakama, Nooksack and Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Nations. I want to honor our ways and acknowledge that I am a guest to this Coast Salish territory. I acknowledge that these are the ancestral homelands of the Duwamish, Suqumish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot Nations.

This year many of my own relatives tested positive for COVID-19. We are suffering great losses across Indian Country including my own Yakama Reservation. My aunt and uncle, respected elders on my reservation, died only a week apart from each other. My uncle was one of our traditional scaffold fishermen on the Nch’I Wánà (Columbia River). He fought an oppressive system to his death in a federal case to protect his fishing rights. I was told that my aunt carried much knowledge of my paternal grandmothers going back three generations, and I had always planned to learn more from her so that I could pass on our history. Losses like these have impacted my family and generations to come, but also entire nations throughout Indian Country.

archival photo of young woman on horse in full traditional Nimiipuu regalia
Roxanne’s great grandmother Rachel Broncheau-Rickman Hansen on horse in full traditional Nimiipuu regalia

Amongst the thousands who tested positive for COVID-19 were many of my relatives, including my own son, aunts, uncles, and so many more. Despite that, our resilience is demonstrated by how we come together as Indian people.

Once again, this biological warfare has taken away so many of our elders. This means, at a time in our history when our stories, our ceremonies, our ways are only connected to us by a thin string, that the string is even more tenuous. Our elders are precious; they are sacred; they are the ones who teach us how to thrive. Their loss is felt not only by individual family members, but by entire nations. We share our losses and collectively feel the deep gap in our spirits.

Since time immemorial, our people lived with the elements and the land. Through this Relationship, we have passed medicines along from one generation to the next. COVID-19 has devastated our communities, but we stand in resilience with our Ancestors.

black and white photo of young girl
Roxanne’s grandmother, Viola Broncheau Mc Joe

We do not want you to feel sorry for us. We are survivors; we are resilient. Throughout this pandemic our people continue to thrive. Many people don’t get our sense of humor, our laughter, our jokes. We have learned to take the worst of situations and find the light.

In closing, through all of this past year, I want to remember the brutal murder of George Floyd that awakened the entire world. Throughout this pandemic, 7th and 8th generation BIPOC have been on the streets fighting for justice and demanding an end to the genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. If anything, if we are to reimagine Seattle, we would have to completely start over. America would have to right its wrongs and acknowledge the Original and First peoples of this country. And America would have to reconcile and acknowledge the holocaust of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. We can start by ending mass incarceration and school-to-prison pipelines, and defunding the police to reallocate those funds back into Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

Roxanne White, standing in front of Public Market sign, dressed in red with red hand painted on face
Roxanne White, standing in front of Public Market sign, with red hand painted on face representing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit (MMIWG2)

Roxanne White is a fearless and dedicated organizer and social justice advocate who has dedicated her work to Indian Country. She is Nez Perce, Yakama, Nooksack, and A’aninin (Gros Ventre.) She is recognized nationally for her work on issues related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People and for her work with MMIP families and communities seeking justice and healing. She is also known her work on human trafficking in Native communities. Roxanne is a grassroots organizer, standing on the front lines for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. She embodies vibrant Indigenous leadership through the resilience of culture and ceremony and a lens of historical trauma. Roxanne is a family member of MMIP, as well as a survivor of human trafficking, domestic violence, childhood abduction, and sexual abuse. She draws on her personal experience to empower and support MMIP families, survivors, and Native communities. Roxanne has been featured on HuffPost, the Canadian Broadcast Channel, CNN, Al Jazeera TV, Seattle Times, and a variety of local and national media.

Submissions for the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project were commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained in each submission do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas, of the City of Seattle.