Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A follow up intro
Today I want to share a short post about an important topic, which I have broached before and will cover more in depth later. I am struggling beginning this post, knowing how to, because it is an emotional one. One that hits close to home. Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada. We discussed it yesterday in my course and it made me think about the situation more in depth. I also became aware of the organization “Walking with our sisters” honoring and commemorating through art, the missing Aboriginal women. Let’s discuss the topic using a wonderful documentary I just watched.
Situation in Canada and more particularly in BC
Above you are seeing a pin I also bid on and won at an auction yesterday. West Coast style art in honor of the hundred of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada (and in the USA, data is just less available for the USA). It is estimated that between 500 and 600 Aboriginal women went missing or were murdered in the past 20 years or so. Do the calculations, that is over 20 women a year, almost one woman every two weeks. That is a lot. Any way you look at it, that is a lot. And that is being conservative with the numbers.
Because a proportion of those women are not reported missing. Because they have no one who notices they are gone. They just literally vanished. And even today efforts put into looking for missing Indigenous women are less than for Caucasian women. It is literally as though we are invisible. Pure and simple. And it is devastating and infuriating that it is still happening. My life is surrounded by some of those wonderful strong women. Who every day fight for their life. Literally at times, while people watch and do nothing. I hear a version of this story every week. But no, I will not just stand there and do nothing. I am the one who stops fights (literally), who gets in between someone being harassed and the one harassing them. I am that person. And I will continue to be. Because we need to stand united. As the strong women that we are.
BC and the Downtown Eastside
As some of you might know, I live in British Columbia (BC). The proportion of Aboriginal people within the general population is about 5-7%, yet between 25 and 33% of incarcerated individuals are Aboriginal. Over-representation much? Missing and murdered Indigenous women in BC? Huge problem. Some of you might have heard of Robert Pickton, the “Pickton case”. A man who is currently serving a life sentence for murder, sorry “murderssss”. Officially convicted of the murder of 6 women but also charged with the murder of 20 others. All found buried (in pieces) on his pig farm. Most of those women were sex trade workers from an area of Vancouver called “the downtown eastside”, the Skidrow of Vancouver. One of the poorest and most violent areas of Canada. It is where I work. Those women, their friends, their sisters, daughters, mothers, they are clients, they are people I see every day. Of course, I mean sisters, mothers, daughters in a general sense, not a literal sense. Because in the downtown eastside (DTES), everyone is related. It is all a big family. 26 women were found on Pickton’s farm, almost 40 more from DTES remain missing. All women who were daughters, sisters, cousins or mothers to someone. The majority being Aboriginal women.
The big family that is the DTES misses them. It’s a weird feeling walking in that neighborhood. I am actually very comfortable there. But if you watch and notice people, you will see that time appears to stand still. The same people are on the same corners doing the same thing every day. There is no weekend in the DTES, it is literally the same every day. And although there is violence yes, there is also camaraderie. People smiling at you, complimenting you as you walk down the street. I get stopped every day by someone talking about my hair, my tattoos etc. And I always smile back. Because down there, we are all family, those who live there, those who work there and those who went missing from there.
Highway of Tears
Also in BC, is Highway 16, a highway in North BC connecting villages and big cities, the North with the Interior. A highway renamed the “Highway of Tears”. Why? Because numerous women have gone missing on that highway. 95% of them were Aboriginal. Some were found dead, some are still missing. Women, once again daughters, sisters, mothers, who never got home. Women whose car broke down, women who were hitchhiking, for the last time. Women are now afraid of Highway 16 as most of the deaths remain unsolved. Families rally together, police corps offer support. But yet, it never seems to be enough. Because lives were still lost.
So what can we do?
What surprises me is the unity of people over the missing and murdered Indigenous women. We stand united. February 14 is the official day in honor of those women. Please remember it, say a quick prayer. The people of the DTES march on that day. The Highway of Tears is lined with people on that day, people holding pictures of the missing, people standing united. People sing the Woman Warrior song, a powerful song if there was ever one. It gives me goosebumps every time. I can hear the cry of the lost souls when I listen to it but also their incredible strength.
People in BC and Canada are not forgetting. And that warms my heart. Because the people of the DTES are normally forgotten. They are normally hidden because they make people uncomfortable. It’s hard to look at humanity in the face sometimes. But guess what? When you do, you find beautiful people, real and genuine people.
A woman who did more
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned a video I watched. The documentary is entitled “Finding Dawn” by filmmaker Christine Welsh. Dawn was a woman from the DTES who is believed to have been on Pickton’s farm. Her sister Fay, featured in the video is one of the most incredible women I have ever seen. She raises such good points. Listen to her, take the time, you will not regret it. As she says so well, our ancestors and the land are there to help us and guide us. Water and land are our relations and can help us find peace. Our ancestors are there to show us the ways. As they would never have accepted such treatment of women. Neither should we. This video bought tears to my eyes more than once. I cannot do much but I can share it, and spread the word, the work of those who are doing something. And you know where to find me on February 14.
Watch the documentary here:
All my Relations