There is an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada and we all have a role to play in finding a solution. A women, LORETTA SAUNDERS is an Inuit women who was writing a Masters Paper on the topic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada – sharing some points that Canada truly wanted the Aboriginal (First Nation, Metis & Inuit) populations to be exterminated. She went missing last month and was found dead on a Highway in New Brunswick. This is happening at the same time that right here in the North End of Winnipeg an indigenous woman, MYRNA LETANDRE was found dead in the walls of a rooming house. How? A Tip from British Columbia RCMP after another woman went missing earlier in February 2014 – the accused was her husband. that couple moved from the house in Winnipeg over 5 years ago. This as 14 year old SHANICE BEAR is still missing from Saskatoon since early December 2013 and is still missing. As an indigenous man, I know it is our responsibility to protect the fire – protect our women, and I know that we have to act soon.
The value of Indigenous Women in Canada
The response of the Canadian Federal Government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is that the Canadian Government has and continues to do enough to address safety issues fore violence against Indigenous Women. Their fixation on economics, dollar amounts and seemingly flat understanding of what is ‘valuable’ concerns me. That statement coming from a government that apologized to Aboriginal people in Canada in 2008 for the horrors inflicted upon children and families of an entire nation through Indian Residential Schools – quickly followed by a defunding of Aboriginal Healing organizations such as Health departments for Native Women Association of Canada Health programs and also the shutting down of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Moving forward through the years we have seen omnibus legislation, proroguing of parliament, epidemics of suicide in First Nations communities and the lack of access to basic needs like education, water and housing continue to be challenges to the Indigenous in Canada. Our children are over represented in Child Welfare systems, over represented in the courts and jails and are chronic victims of the health care system. Inquiry after Inquiry, horror story after horror story, band aid solutions and happy sounding announcements are thrown around.
While our children continue to die
But not anymore. In 2010 in the North End of Winnipeg young people began organizing and fighting back. A youth group called Aboriginal Youth Opportunities committed themselves to breaking stereotypes, role modelling Absolute Integrity, creating institutional solutions for local problems and reclaiming and applying traditional Indigenous teachings and modes of child rearing and educating. We toiled on innovating various cosmetic and volunteer led solutions in our own neighbourhood, from banners to street rallies to youth groups. In 2012 the Idle No More movement arrived and we felt like the world was ready – it certainly was watching.
But what has changed?
The many round dances and rallies have served as an accessible entry point for friends and helpers unsure of how to get involved. The many Teach Ins and educational panels have presented important perspectives on the way forward, blending youthful perspective, technical information with indigenous teachings serving as a foundation. Ceremony and interest in traditional activity (at least locally in the North End here) have increased dramatically. Language nests are popping up, youth groups are activating, and connecting. The many different water walkers, and peaceful marches that have woven a thread of hope and solidarity across turtle island have given each of our territories an opportunity to be a nation again; to welcome people in a good way to their territory, to make them comfortable, to exchange gifts and stories, and send them forward in a good way to their next destination. It may not be a dollar amount, but I can assure you that the networking capacity, ad the confidence level among the young people in our community has risen exponentially. The willingness to address seemingly impossible situations is on the rise. The amount of outreach that is happening across cultural groups is something I have never seen.
What is the Action Item?
But it starts at the grass roots with you and me. It starts with us asking the question WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? How can I influence my circle of people to participate in a solution somehow. We can continue to support Indigenous nations by asking “What does the name of my town, city, state or province mean”? It can start when you ask “who lived on this land before my ancestors got here?” It starts when we look into our various institutions that claim to be just systems and contain disproportionate amounts of one particular group. It happens when we take serious steps to address our own mental health and addictions issues and ensure that our relationships with our loved ones and ourselves are in balance. The actions of the people in our world when they see injustice will determine the level of hope we can have for our children’s survival in the future. What will you do now that you know? You cannot unsee what you have read. Love is the answer, but until we make it an economic policy, it seems that many cannot hear us. So tell me, what is the dollar value of a human heart beat? To us, in the struggle, in the movement, the answer is simple: