On October 4th, people across Canada gathered to remember and honor the missing and murdered among us. Sisters in Spirit is an initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada who state “the violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada is a national tragedy.”
National vigils, now over 200, take many forms from rallies to marches and feasts. Hopefully, they will come to represent powerful movements of social change.
“How long are you going to keep attending these things?” my husband asked as I headed to the door, a poster of my daughter in one hand, bags of donuts in the other to contribute to the feast. “I don’t know, ” I replied, “maybe until there no more women are murdered.”
The Edmonton vigil was held at a downtown community hall, with people overflowing from the meeting room into the entrance and across the yard by the time I arrived. A smudging ceremony was taking place outside, where participants gently cleansed themselves with sacred smoke to purify their intentions.
Drummers and dancers performed, expressing pride in a culture once suppressed. As well, there were poignant stories from visionary young people, survivors who had endured years of abuse and exploitation, and families who had lost loved ones. The ceremony included a memorial walk with candles lit in remembrance.
As one of the non-walkers (due to a degenerative disc) I stayed behind and chatted another sedentary visitor. She and her daughter had come, as citizens of the larger community, to learn more about Indigenous culture. “How could so many people just disappear?” they wondered, unable to comprehend the racism, exploitation and indifference of police in the past.
And yet a young man they knew disappeared without a trace in February. One of the difference now is social media. His family maintains a Missing web page to help create awareness. They have almost 30,000 members and still no answers.
Meanwhile in Edmonton, a service was also held at All Saints Cathedral. Members of the congregation read out the names of 1181 identified MMIW. So much work is required to help shift from increased awareness to justice and prevention.
Grandmother Moon, You know all women from birth to death. We seek your knowledge and protection.