Missing and murdered indigenous women remembered
The beating of hide drums pierced the downtown Calgary air earlier this week as more than 200 people marched down Stephen Avenue toward Eau Claire Market for missing and murdered indigenous women.
Armed with signs, drums and songs of power and healing, participants from indigenous and non-indigenous communities gathered at City Hall for the 11th annual Sisters In Spirit vigil.
The vigil was hosted by the Awo Taan Healing Lodge, a crisis centre that helps Aboriginal women and their families. Executive director Josie Nepinak spoke to participants following the march, highlighting the intergenerational effects on the surviving families of the missing and murdered women.
“When a child says ‘Momma’ or ‘Mom’ and there is no mom there for that child because she was killed, murdered, she’s been tossed in the garbage, she’s been tossed in rivers, tossed on highways and bushes across this country, we know that needs to stop,” she said.
Nepinak also pushed vigil attendees to press politicians from all levels of government into action.
“I ask each and every one of you to write a letter, to talk to your MLAs and talk to devoted politicians in this province to take a stand and to honour their commitments.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and members of the Calgary Police Service also spoke to the crowd, reiterating their commitments to fostering a healthy relationship with the indigenous community in Calgary.
“For us to make treaty and for us to live by treaty means that we have to work together towards a common future,” the mayor said.
“Violence against women in this country is a national disgrace and violence experienced by Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is a national tragedy.”
Produced by Cameron Perrier and Devyn Ens
Danielle Black, who attended the vigil to honour missing and murdered women, said the issue of violence against aboriginal women and girls needs to be driven into the Canadian conscience to spur greater action.
“It’s not something that goes through our minds on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “It needs to be instilled, I feel, that we have these missing and murdered women and where are they going, what’s happening to them?”
An RCMP report released in May 2014 revealed Canada has 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. Nepinak said in a CBC interview from the vigil the number may be higher. The final report on the residential school system released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2015 recommends a full national inquiry.
- By Cameron Perrier