The World
Visits For Ingrid's Funeral

by Amy Weaver
Keshena, Wisconsin
The Shawano Leader

© Late March 21, 1999
The death of Ingrid Washinawatok brought people from all over the world to the Menominee Reservation to mourn her passing and reflect on her life.

"We can't give up in the struggle for Indigenous people because this happened," said Mary Jane Wilson of Minnesota. "We won't stop until there is justice. That's the way Ingrid was." By continuing her lifelong quest, Wilson said this is how friends and family of Washinawatok can carry on her spirit.

"They did not take a part of me in her death," she added. "It only made me stronger." Funeral services were held March 13 for Washinawatok, one of three Americans found shot to death in southwest Venezuela on March 4. The trio, who had traveled to Colombia to help set up a school system for the U'wa Nation, had been kidnapped Feb. 25 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels.

Menominee Tribal Chairman Apesanahkwat said the show of support from people she touched in her work with Indigenous peoples comforted Washinawatok's family. "These folks did a wonderful job in being there and consoling them," Apesanahkwat said. "There's so many people here for them, and that's helping them."

Among them were Ann Rockefeller Roberts, president of the Fund of the Four Directions, of which Washinawatok served as director, and Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala. Others came from the United Nations, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and from New York to Montana. They all praised and remembered their fallen friend.

Apesanahkwat called the services the end of a devastating week for the Washinawatok's family and the tribe. "I don't know how people cope with stuff like this," he said.

Many of Washinawatok's friends and colleagues coped March 12 by speaking out at a news conference, where they saluted the slain Menominee and vowed to continue her voyage. Dr. Henrietta Mann of the Cheyenne Nation in Oklahoma and Montana said Washinawatok carried "a message of peace and love" to the most remote places. "Ingrid has been to places more dangerous than Colombia," according to Esmeralda Brown of Panama. "She knew the danger, but felt she had to go anyway."

With a concern for children and elders and the perseverance of culture and language, Brown said it was natural that Washinawatok made trips like this, despite the danger. "It is a risk, but that should not stop us from helping the indigenous people like Ingrid did," said Ed Burnstick Sr. of Alberta, Canada. "We must carry on her life's work. It's what Ingrid would want."

"We need to concentrate on cultural sovereignty as much as political sovereignty," added Michael Haney, executive director of the American Indian Arbitration Institute, in Bloomington, Minn. "That's what Ingrid did."

The friends also demanded justice.

Apesanahkwat said the nation still does not have closure as the return of the body was delayed and many answered questions still linger. Although the tribe has communicated to FARC, Apesanahkwat said they have not received any direct communication from them. "We have no assurance justice will be served for the brutal murders of these three people," he said. Apesanahkwat said communication from the tribe to FARC has been to ask them to stop their proceedings, to not take any actions against the individuals responsible until the tribe can work it out to be there. "If indeed these rebels want forgiveness from the Indigenous people of North America, let us interrogate, let us witness what they propose to do in terms of revolutionary justice," said Apesanahkwat. "We don't want to see it on CNN, we want to be there." Being able to witness such justice would prevent the rebel group from just killing four innocent people, instead of those responsible, he said. "It is not our philosophical way to say a life for a life, an eye for an eye, but we do demand justice," he added. Apesanahkwat said March 13 that the tribe is considering asking Amnesty International or the Human Rights Division of UN to help look into the murders.

Although FARC claimed responsibility for the executions March 10, demands for justice continued. As part of an internal investigation into FARCs actions, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Bemidji, Minn., requested in a statement that the investigation include "the Colombian military and allied paramilitaries, Occidental Petroleum and the U.S. State Department whose historical and current actions may have contributed to the violence in Colombia as well as specific actions that contributed to these deaths."

Lisa Bellanger of the Indigenous Women's Network said the State Department's actions to provide $230 million to the Colombian government to fight the war on drugs may have provoked the rebel group to execute Washinawatok, Lahe'ena'e Gay, and Terence Freitas. Bill Simmons of the International Indian Treaty Council, Minneapolis, Minn., demanded that the Colombian government and FARC resume peace talks. To not, would be an injustice to Washinawatok's life, he said.

Tributes For Ingrid
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