Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A follow up intro
honoring the missing and murdered women
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.
In a previous post, I discussed the missing and murdered women in Canada including the fact that approximately 80% of them are Aboriginal. I included a video of the Women’s warrior song sung in honor of the missing and deceased women (I had the pleasure and honor to sing the song 2 days ago). I just want to add here that the song stands not only for the missing Aboriginal women in Canada but also symbolizes the strength of women. Women are the life carriers and life givers. We carry a strong energy that balances the men’s energy.
I recently came across this article, which warmed my heart. For the first time, an event of this scale is taking place in the USA to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The event: Sing our Rivers Red taking place at North Dakota state university from Feb 9 to Feb 14. On display, you will see women’s jewelry. Beaded earrings are displayed, each missing its other half in honor of the Indigenous women who have gone missing since 1980.
The event aims to increase awareness for all the missing and murdered native women while encouraging bonding within the communities. As one of the organizers said: “These women have been murdered or they’re missing, but they shouldn’t be forgotten. They shouldn’t be ignored, and they should be known”. It warms my heart to hear that, as each of those women has a face, a family, friends and a community. I am including here, a link to see the missing women from the Highway of Tears, the name given to the highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George in British Columbia. It makes it real maybe, but please take a moment to look at their faces.
As I have said many times before, there is such beauty within the Native culture but there is also trauma. Indigenous women are more likely to have been physically or sexually assaulted than any other race and about a third of Native women report having been raped in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The statistics are similar in Canada. Native women are survivors, they are a pillar of strength. Strength that comes from their voices and our voices. We must remember All my Relations, as we are all related and connected. What happens to one of us, happens and affects all of us. We are all sisters and brothers. It saddens me that so many Native women (and men) have passed into the spirit world. However, as the prayer below (a version of the Hopi prayer, a prayer for those grieving) tell us, our relatives and ancestors are around us. They are in the wind, in the sky, in the land. They are there with us to give us. And I find that very reassuring.
So far my posts have been about the Native culture, practices and beliefs and today I want to switch gears for a bit. As with the Native culture, also comes trauma. Actually years and years of trauma. There will soon be a section specifically about historical trauma but I thought I would introduce the notion here. Historical trauma or intergenerational trauma is trauma that is passed down from one generation to the other. Our behaviors are learned, as children we learn to behave a certain way. To copy someone, to protect ourselves, to survive. Violence, substance abuse and mental health issues have a higher prevalence in the Native people. Violent ways or substance abuse issues are passed down from great grand-parents, to grand-parents, to parents to children who keep it going with their children. Remember the saying about what we do affects the next seven generations? Well this is what I mean. In order to survive, those unhealthy patterns are repeated.
The effects of events such as the introduction of alcohol by the white man, the loss of the lands, the residential schools system and the welfare scoop of the 1960’s, to name a few, still have a major effect on the Native people. Who are trying to sift through the trauma they themselves went through as well as their ancestors. Some ceremonies have a healing purpose, such as the healing circle. Some stories, some of us would not believe are true. But they are, they are. Such violence and such pain. But the traditional native way of healing, called the Red Road or the Red Path, offers a way of life that is healing. And it is much needed within that culture to break the cycle so that they and the next generations can be healthy.
Missing women and warrior song
In Canada, of the women who go missing or are murdered each year, 80% are Aboriginal. Some were without families to miss them or report them missing. In British Columbia (BC), many of those women have disappeared on what is now referred to as the Highway of Tears, a stretch of highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. The murders of those women, committed between 1969 and 2011, are often referred to as the Highway of Tears murders and still constitute an open investigation. The Native world, as wide as it can be, is also a small world. And chances are that if you talk to a Native person in BC, they will have known in one way or another, one of those women from the Highway of Tears. For more information, you can visit:
The Women’s warrior song below, is a song in honour of those missing women across Canada (notice the eagle circling above them). I first heard it at a pow wow a few years ago. At the time, I did not know what the song or its meaning was. Nonetheless, I had a strong reaction to it. I suddenly felt ill, struggled breathing and started sweating. Until I focused on a little girl dancing in her moccasins around the drummers. When I told an Elder I had a strange experience, without me saying anything, he described how I had felt. I asked him how he knew. His answer: because you were visited by a spirit and you felt its pain and energy. An experience I will never forget. To this day, I still have chills every time I hear it.