Kola Thompson, Willa Wallace and Jazz Halfmoon Thompson know a little something about turning fear into action.
A murder on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in 2016 brought fear, shock and anger. The shooting happened after a dispute by possible rival gang members. When Beau Welch attempted to shut down a party at his house, violence erupted outside on the driveway. Julian Darryl James Simpson chambered a round and fired twice. One of the rounds struck Tony Jimenez Jr. of Pendleton, who died on the driveway. A friend of Simpson’s, Victor Joseph Contreras, took out his Glock pistol and fired 20 rounds, hitting Welch, who would eventually recover after almost losing his foot. Police apprehended Contreras after he fell into a pond. Simpson evaded capture for a week, but was finally arrested in his home state of Idaho.
To add to the complexity, both Simpson, who was convicted of murder earlier this year, and Welch are enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The three women and other community members gathered for two vigils for Jimenez after the shooting.
“A lot of people were really shook up,” Halfmoon Thompson said. “We needed a safe space to talk.”
During one vigil, Thompson took the microphone and let her feelings flow. Welch is a friend and a cousin. His brush with death and the murder of Jimenez hit hard.
“We were really upset,” she said. “We were going to take a stand and take our reservation back. Get rid of the partiers, the drugs, the alcohol and people just not feeling secure on the reservation.”
“Kola was definitely the main cheerleader,” Halfmoon Thompson said. “She said we’ve got to stand up for our community. We just rallied behind her. At the vigil, she took the mic and took control of the situation in a good way.”
Despite the common names, Thompson and Halfmoon Thompson are not related, but they and Wallace have known each other for years. The women took action by forming a group called Enough Iz Enough.
“After the shooting happened, we were really angry and upset and disappointed and we didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t bring our kids out into the community anymore,” Thompson said. “So this group started out with a fighter mentality — we wanted to help clean up the community and make everybody feel safe.”
The trio decided to take a small step toward sanity and safety by organizing a clean-up event called Walk the Rez. A flyer advertising the event featured a clenched red fist and the slogan “Taking back our REZ.”
The flyer read, “Due to the recent tragic events on our reservation, emotions are high. We want answers and we want action. Enough is enough. We are taking back our home. This is a start.”
The trio is a close-knit one.
Thompson, 29, is a professional mixed martial arts fighter turned powerlifter. She holds three state powerlifting records. The mother of three also works as a fitness instructor at the RAC and is a full-time business student at Blue Mountain Community College. She hopes to go into law enforcement.
Halfmoon Thompson, 35, works as operations manager at the tribal radio station, KCUW 104.3. She spends nine hours each week on her own time learning the Ichishkiin language in a class led by Warm Springs elder Don Sohappy in a quest to keep the language from dying.
Wallace, a yoga instructor, is mother to six children. While the other two women are CTUIR members, Wallace is enrolled in the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
Enough Iz Enough sponsored a variety of events in the two years since the shooting.
“Over the course of the two years that we’ve been doing events, our focus has kind of changed,” Thompson said. “We’ve shifted gears. Rather than feeling like it’s a fight, like it’s anger, now we’re trying to join the communities.”
The most recent event was last weekend’s free youth basketball camp at the Roundup Athletic Club, open to all youth. Two coaches from Seattle’s Real Native Fitness, Dietreich Rios and Matt Hawk, ran 30 young players from around the area through skill building exercises and drills.
Other events included the No More Stolen Sisters March, to showcase the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women, a phenomenon the three say has affected the Umatilla Reservation.
In January, the group sponsored an anti-bullying event for youth that included a community panel, team building, a jiu-jitsu seminar and a yoga flow. Enough Iz Enough also raised money to bring Ashley Callingbull to speak to Nixyaawii graduates in June. Callingbull, Mrs. Universe in 2015 and a motivational speaker and spokesperson for the Nike N7 organization, hails from Alberta’s Enoch Cree Nation.
Several times during winter months, Thompson and Wallace gathered blankets, coats and hand warmers and walked the Pendleton Parkway, distributing them to homeless people.
Looking ahead, the women say the future is fluid. A podcast is in the works to carry on the conversation and provide a forum for community issues, said Halfmoon Thompson.
“The door is open,” she said. “We’re looking for ideas..”
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 541-966-0810.