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1999 NCC News Archives

About Ingrid Washinawatok

Information on May 22, 1999, Memorial Service, News Conference

Ingrid Washinawatok was asked by the U’wa Indians of Colombia, South America, to help them set up a traditional school to protect their culture and language. On February 25, 1999, while traveling with the U’was, Ingrid and Lahe’ena’e Gay and Terence Freitas were kidnapped by Colombian guerillas. American Indian leaders from across the country came to New York City’s American Indian Community House (AICH) and worked around the clock to negotiate Ingrid’s and her colleagues’ release. "It was believed that we were successful and Ingrid would be released," says Alex Ewen, of the Native American Council of New York. After one week Ingrid and her colleagues were found murdered. "This has been a time none of us will ever forget," mourned Sammy Toineeta (Lakota) a member of the memorial service committee. "She devoted virtually all her adult life to these causes and I don’t want her to be forgotten," said Apesanahkwat, chair of the Menominee Nation.

"Ingrid was known as a tireless defender of the rights of Indigenous peoples," states Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ingrid was forty-one years old, a wife and mother of a 14-year-old son. During her life Ingrid was the Chair of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, delegate for the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights, NGO representative in consultative status to the UN for the International Indian Treaty Council and a member of the UN’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Ingrid also served as the executive director of the Fund for the Four Directions, chair of Native Americans in Philanthropy, co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, board member of the AICH, Sister Fund, National Network of Grantmakers and on the selection committee for the Letelier Moffit Human Rights Award.

Ingrid was an award-winning lecturer who spoke on behalf of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and co-produced the film documentary, "Warrior". She was the recipient of numerous awards from the Asian American, Hispanic American and African American communities. She also received awards including the 1998 New York City Indian Woman of the Year, Northstar Foundation’s 1995 Frederick Douglas Award and was a Fellow in the Rockefeller Foundation’s next generation leadership Program.

Immediately following her death the American Indian Community of New York City honored Ingrid with a two-day feast held at the American Indian Community House (AICH). Approximately 500 hundred of people lined up along Lafayette Street and Broadway waiting for an opportunity to enter a space big enough for only 230 people. "Ingrid made everyone feel special and just the thought of her still inspires you," says fellow community member and President of the American Indian Law Alliance, Tonya Gonnella Frincher, Esq. (Onondaga), "anyone who grieved Ingrid’s death knew they had to be at AICH where she had dedicated so much of her time."

The Menominee Nation of which Ingrid was a member honored her with a full warrior’s funeral. An American Indian warrior is a wise, respected person who is a spiritual and humanitarian leader servicing the community. According to Rebecca Adamson (Cherokee) President of the First Nation’s Development Institute, "Ingrid’s funeral was one of the largest gatherings of American Indian leaders in this century." "You can not believe how many peoples’ lives Ingrid touched," added Rosemary Richmond (Mohawk), executive director of AICH, "the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the only place large enough to hold everyone who wants to pay their respects." It is expected that Indigenous Peoples from all over the country will travel to New York City for the May 22 memorial service.

AICH has set up a special fund for people wishing to help defray the costs resulting from this tragedy which are continuing to mount. Family members still coping with the personal loss of Ingrid are also dealing with the financial costs associated with this tragedy which runs into the thousands of dollars. AICH is also asking for donations of frequent flyer tickets that will assist in bringing close friends and family members to the memorial service.

Thus far contributions have been received and committed by the Jessie Noyes Foundation, Threshold Foundation, Fund for the Four Directions, Billy Mills’ Lakota Foundation, Lenoard Peltier, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, Riverside Church, Coca-Cola Company, Anheuser-Busch and CBS.

Donations for the special fund should be made out to the non-profit American Indian Community House, Inc., 708 Lafayette Street 8th Floor, New York City, NY 10003. Donations for "Ingrid Washinawatok Peace, Justice and Sovereignty Fund" should be sent to "The Fund for the Four Directions" at 8 West 40th Street, Suite 1610, New York, New York 10018.

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