Saturday, August 13, 2016

Alberta Government led Family Gathering for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

#MMIW #YEG Aug. 13/16
Thank you Treaty 6 for welcoming all peoples' within Alberta. Metis were also acknowledged as keepers of the land. Thank you Jodi Stonehouse for honouring us with your bundle and the Pipe Ceremony. Thank you Corky LarsenJonasson, Charlie and Martha Letendre, Charles Letendre Jr. and Summersky Letendre for your wisdom and guidance. Thank you to the three women drummers for sharing your songs from the Women's Water Song to the Strong Woman's song. Thank you Stephanie Evans again for that beautiful ribbon skirt that I am honoured to wear. (So many people still comment on how beautiful it is. Josie and I matched thanks to you! Her skirt is amazing!)

Today I witnessed something very historically significant. I seen two levels of government come together along side Indigenous families, instead of against them. To have the Alberta Government, Indigenous Relations Minister, Richard Feehan - MLA Edmonton Rutherford, and the Federal Government, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, representative Jolene Head, work together FOR the betterment of Indigenous has literally NEVER been done before in Alberta's history. (Only since 1905 has Alberta been around.) Today's purpose was to have Jolene Head, who is Cree from Manitoba, explain the scope of the inquiry coming. There was a Q & A session, lunch, then a sharing circle.

Watching, feelings, hearing the wounds reopen time and time again needs to stop. I pray, there is only one more time many family members have to do it, at the actual inquiry. There were many important issues raised, the RCMP and other police forces lack of representation was noted.

I shared a bit of my personal story to highlight the racism of the day back in the eighties before Awo Taan Healing Lodge existed at the policing level, the Alberta Health level, the mental health level and the justice system level. I reminded everyone of the trauma residential school left, not even allowing full blood Indigenous be proud to call themselves Indigenous. I spoke about the need for Indigenous shelters nationally and the need for training for all public servants on Indigenous knowledge. We need a "Stop Racism" program nationally and the diversity training is the wrong terminology being used. We need it as just part of the training, not as special training because every group in the fabric of "Canada" matters. I didn't want sex workers or the Two Spirit to be forgotten in the inquiry. I talked about how residential schools taught homophobia and because the Pride/LGBTQ+ doesn't understand Indigenous, they don't accept Indigenous, leaving our Two Spirit incredibly vulnerable. Lastly, I focused on the need for the people in the room to run for office, specifically municipal because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the recommendations that come out of the MMIW inquiry will need leadership at the municipal level to have implementation of any calls to action or recommendations. I met one person who said they were running municipally and other for school trustee. I was so elated to know that more see the need and are stepping up to the plate.

There was also mentions of the media portrayal of situations Indigenous face. I wished I had talked more about how the terminology of "at-risk behavior" is part of the colonial narrative of "right" and "wrong." The Indian Act creates systemic poverty which should be the "at-risk" narrative, not the result of the situation systemic poverty imposes. Sex work is criminalized, creating the "at-risk" environment. When there are Indigenous women who are sex workers, their lives are not worth less. Their basic human rights aren't worth less. These are still many of whom are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, and therefore loved, valued and missed. Not all missing and murdered girls, women and Two-Spirit are sex workers. The ones that may used it, shouldn't be seen as less though.

Other families and speakers spoke of their loved ones, problems they seen in the scope of the inquiry and their endless pain of their loss and injustice. (I respect their privacy and how difficult the day was.)

The sharing circle had people leaving tobacco with the bundle from everyone, myself included. Corky spoke about us leaving our hurt and pain there and ask the Creator for love to replace that hole. Her words and the drummers helped leave the area with hope. Then the Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations, Richard Feehan and his wife, along side with two other staffers, shook our hands, gave us polished rocks with a word and a white rose. When I spoke with him, he talked about having another event like this one in Calgary next. I really felt he was genuine and I can't tell you enough what a hopeful change that is as an Albertan to see such a change in social policy. I couldn't believe I just filled out a form right there for mileage and they would take care of that. (They also covered lunch which was wonderful. I love tuna sandwiches and olives!) Thank you Alberta! Both governments gave a sheet of support resources which I thought was perfect. There were many support staff on hand as well as a room for kids.

I traveled with my friends Stacey and Nancy on the way home from Edmonton. We stopped to see the site from across the river where the Red Deer Industrial School was that killed the highest amount of kids and was promptly shut down as a result. (The pic above.)

I also want to mention today was a long day on social media because an Indigenous man was killed by a farmer in Biggar, Sk and the media, RCMP and farmers are rallying behind the man who shot and killed the Indigenous man, Colten. Screen shots of the farmers saying the most racist things were going around. Indigenous are all hoping this farmer and his supporters will be charged with hate crimes. It was unfortunately the perfect day to highlight the systemic racism we are still facing in Canada.

It was a long day but a great day to move forward. I never thought a year ago we'd be here and I'm so grateful we are moving forward. I'm really proud of the Notley and Trudeau governments.

Mahsi cho for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment