By Molly Bryant, Puyallup Tribal News
In recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Month in June, Puyallup Tribal Member Danny Leonard and Heritage Division Manager Connie McCloud collaborated to organize a march called Drums not Guns.
The march’s route stretched from 40th Street and Portland Avenue to the Tribal Administration building, creating a strong sense of community as Tribal members and other community members united to raise awareness about the alarming surge in gun violence rates in the Tacoma area. The city broke its record for homicides last year with 45, 43 of which were shootings.
Attendees at the Drums not Guns march created signs conveying messages such as, “drums not guns,” “violence is not tradition, protect future generations” and “no more shooting.” They also chanted “drums not guns” while receiving honks of support from passing cars on Portland Avenue.
The inaugural Drums not Guns march was organized by Leonard in 2019, inspired by a Tribal meeting during which discussion about the loss of young lives on Tacoma’s Eastside motivated him to speak out. Reflecting on its origins, he shared, “I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was this Great Spirit just telling me to get up and say something, and that’s what had happened. That’s how the first Drums not Guns walk started.”
Following the March, attendees had the opportunity to share their experiences and perspectives on gun violence and its impact on the community. Many participants shared heartfelt personal stories about how gun violence had affected their lives.
Tacoma Chief of Police Avery L. Moore was in attendance, as well as Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker and City Manager Elizabeth Pauli.
Tribal Elder Connie McCloud emphasized the significance of actively participating in the dialogue against gun violence, stating, “The violence has affected our community.” She further emphasized, “I want us at the table. We’re not invisible, we have been here for thousands of years. We’re not going anywhere.”
Tribal Council Members were also in attendance. Here are a few excerpts of what they stated at the event:
James Rideout: “We feel compelled to tell the community that we are working behind the scenes. Let’s do something about it. That’s why we’re here today, is because we have the audacity and the opportunity to put something together.” He later stated, “And again, I want to say thank you to the Tacoma Police Department because you have no idea what this means to me.”
Monica Miller: “We’ve lost so many children of our own here in the past year, the past couple of years. This is getting too bad. Our streets, almost every night are having gunshots. We do not want them; we’d rather have the drums. Pay attention to the children, to the community and your friends.”
Fred Dillon: “This is a good change, this is something good that we can move forward.” Later he stated, “We’ve got to do what we can. We’ve got to be the change.”
Anna Bean: “I just want to say thank you so much for each one of you guys coming out. I want to pay acknowledgment to Tribal member Danny Leonard. Back in 2019, we had a rise in gun violence here in the Eastside and in our community. We often wonder what is it that we can do to contribute to help about what’s going on, and Danny stepped up. He said Drums not Guns, and he brought us all together, and everybody got together, and that is another reason why we are here today. Alongside with collaborating with Elder Connie McCloud as well.”