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Riverton's MLK Day March Focuses On Indigenous Youth

Savannah Maher

Temperatures dipped below 10 degrees in Riverton on Monday, Jan 20. But that didn't stop more than 100 people from participating in the city's 17th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day "Walk for Unity."

Traffic came to a halt on North Federal Street as the marchers made their way from Riverton City Park to City Hall. Several community leaders, including Riverton Mayor Richard Gard and Fort Washakie state Rep. Andi Clifford, gave short speeches to the crowd before passing the mic to seven Indigenous youth speakers.

Corwin Howell, president of Wyoming Indian High School's Traditional Club, shared words from Cherokee Indigenous rights activist Ruth Muskrat Bronson, and spoke about the strides Fremont County has made in combatting racism.

"Native children today live in a world of acceptance and love that is represented by all of you," Howell said. "All of you are good people, doing what is right. And you proved this by traveling to Riverton and walking to show that there is no room for hate in Wyoming."

Speeches by several Riverton High School students alluded to a racist incident that took place at the school last month, where two students walked into school wearing white, hooded robes that resembled Klu Klux Klan regalia. Senior Alessa Brown said that the incident, while "unfortunate," did not represent the values of the school.

"Some were forced to look at this distressing situation and deal with it," Brown said. "I am proud of the school that I attend and the people that strive for change to make a difference in this country."

Riverton's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and rally were first organized by Wyoming Indian High School students in 2003, as a response to a white supremacist group's proposal to move its headquarters to the city. Every year since, the event has drawn marchers from throughout Fremont County and beyond.

Students from six Fremont County school districts were represented at Monday's march, including students who rode in on busses from the Arapahoe and Wyoming Indian school districts on the Wind River Reservation.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.

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