Winning four races at the 1B small-school state track and field meet was important to Rosalie “Rosy” Fish, a senior at Muckleshoot Tribal School in Auburn. She nearly accomplished that ambitious goal, taking first place in three distance races and second in the 400.
More important than the medals, though, was who she ran for Thursday through Saturday in Cheney.
With the letters MMIW in red on her right leg and a red handprint on her face, Fish advocated for missing and murdered indigenous women and raised awareness of the fact that Native women on some reservations are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. They are assaulted at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic minority, and there is no definitive data on how many Native women have gone missing.
Fish won Thursday’s 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 15.22 seconds. On Saturday, Fish took second in the 400 final at 1:01.2, just behind the winner, who posted a 1:00.91. She won the 800 final in 2:20.93 and the 3,200 in 11:44.11.
Along with MMIW and the handprint in red, Fish dedicated each race to an indigenous woman who has gone missing or been murdered, providing information about them on a poster where she hung her medals.
She ran the 1,600 for Alice Ida Looney, who was 38 when she was last seen in Wapato in the early morning hours of Aug. 16 and 17, 2004. A hunter found Looney’s body Nov. 30, 2005, wedged under a tree on a small island in Satus Creek, about 12 miles southeast of Toppenish.
The circumstances of Looney’s death have never been explained. The FBI lists the cause of her death as inconclusive.
On Tuesday, Fish was still adjusting to the massive response after her story and photos went viral over the holiday weekend. She already has a lot happening these days, with graduation soon, Running Start classes, preparation for Iowa Central Community College — where she has a scholarship — and earning her pilot’s license.
She is also trying to spend as much time as possible on canoe journeys with family until she leaves for Iowa later this summer.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming. I usually just keep to myself, especially on social media,” said Fish, who is 18 and a citizen of the Cowlitz Tribe. “A lot of people found out about my Instagram (account and have been) reaching out to me, which I appreciate. ... I haven’t been checking my email (and) I got a lot of emails I didn’t see right away. ... I’ve been playing catch-up with some of the people I’ve been talking to.”
Along with Looney, Fish ran for Renee Davis, 23, who was five months pregnant when she was shot to death by King County sheriff’s deputies at her Muckleshoot reservation home Oct. 21, 2016, and Misty Upham of the Blackfeet Nation, an actress who was 32 when she went missing in October 2014. Her body was found 11 days later in a wooded ravine in Auburn, near the White River.
Fish also ran for Jacqueline (Jackie) Salyers, a citizen of the Puyallup Tribe. Salyers, the pregnant mother of four, was shot by a Tacoma police officer Jan. 28, 2016.
“(Davis), she was in our Muckleshoot community. Her sister and my cousin Kendra take care of her two children. ... There was no way I could not run for her,” said Fish, who also received a sportsmanship commendation for congratulating the girls she lapped and handing out water to those who finished behind her.
“A lot of these women were connected to us by family or close family friends,” Fish added.
Her family is related to Looney. Fish’s mother, Autumn McCloud, is a citizen of the Yakama Nation with ties to the Mesplie-Andy families. The Looneys are her in-laws, McCloud said.
“When she first told me she was doing to do something, she didn’t really say what,” McCloud said. “She came out (and) had a poster” that included Looney.
Her husband’s aunt is Mary Looney, one of Alice Looney’s sisters. They asked for permission to use two photos of Alice, as with the other women Fish highlighted.
“We didn’t want to bring any more hurt or trauma to them,” McCloud said of the women’s families. At the same time, Fish wanted to make their voices heard. “She wanted to do them justice,” McCloud said.
That goal came into focus late last week, Fish said. While she’s been more competitive than ever this season — she won the women’s 1,500 varsity race at the Nike/Jesuit Twilight Relays in Beaverton, Ore., on May 3 — she was still thinking only of medals and records when she ran the 1,600 on Thursday with a red handprint on her face.
“When I put on the paint and I tried to run with the paint, it was really heavy. Everything in my body felt really heavy when I ran, and I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to,” Fish said.
She reached out to Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, who ran the Boston Marathon with 26 names of missing and murdered indigenous women in mind and a red handprint on her face. Daniel is a citizen of the Kul Wicasa Oyate/Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. They had connected through running a few weeks earlier.
“I had never even considered mixing (advocating) and running. To see a Native woman do that, I was completely inspired,” Fish said. “I saw her as a role model; someone I wanted to be. I knew that by running in three or four events (at the state meet), I would get a little publicity. I asked her permission to wear the handprint as well.”
“We really talked on Thursday night,” Fish added. “She helped me make sense of how I was feeling. ... She told me it made sense that I felt heavy. After that I realized a lot of people assumed that I was wearing war paint, which was a little offensive to me.”
The day before the meet, Fish decided to dedicate each race to a particular woman. A little nervous, Fish didn’t want to make it “too political,” she said. She also decided to put MMIW on her leg Friday.
“I need to share their stories. ... How can I make (others) care and at least feel what my family, my brothers and sisters, are feeling? That’s where I came up with the idea of the poster,” she added.
The experience of running for others has changed her view of her chosen sport, which Fish hopes to take “as far as it will let me,” she said.
Daniel told Fish she represented the women well and made an impact. “These women are more than missing persons posters,” Fish recalled Daniel saying.
“I think the impact I made was positive. But I think if I am going to do this, I am going to do it better in the future” to help people understand the pain the families are going through, the pain indigenous women are going through, Fish said.
McCloud was not surprised that her daughter wanted to highlight missing and murdered indigenous women. Fish participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and is a strong advocate at school for equality.
“I’m surprised about the amount of attention, but I wasn’t surprised that she would do something to bring awareness,” McCloud said. “She was really more about, ‘It’s about them.’ If she could have left her name out of it, she would have.”