In Canada, Aboriginal women are 5-7 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to die as a result of violence. Sisters in Spirit – an initiative led by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) – researched these high incidences of violence. Their research found evidence of over 580 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Sadly, many believe that because of issues with police and government reporting, this already tragically high number is much lower than the actual number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Here is a video of the then Native Women’s Association of Canada President, Beverly Jacobs, the speaking at the Indian Residential Schools Statement of Apology in June 2008:
The video quality is a bit poor, but there is a transcript here – https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100015717/1100100015720.
Jacobs’ words were moving Native women’s lives and also had a call to action:
I want to say that I come here speaking from my heart, because two generations ago, my grandmother, being a Mohawk woman, was beaten, sexually beaten and physically beaten, for being a Mohawk woman. She did not pass that on. She did not pass it on to my mother and her siblings, and so that matriarchal system that we have was directly affected. Luckily, I was raised in a community where it has been revitalized by all of our mothers.
I want to say that as mothers, we teach our boys and our girls, our men and our women equally. That is what I am here to say, that although it may be the Native Women’s Association, we also represent men and women because that is our responsibility. It is not just about women’s issues, it is about making sure that we have strong nations again. That is what I am here to say.
…I have just one last thing to say. To all of the leaders of the Liberals, the Bloc and NDP, thank you, as well, for your words because now it is about our responsibilities today, the decisions that we make today and how they will affect seven generations from now.
My ancestors did the same seven generations ago and they tried hard to fight against you because they knew what was happening. They knew what was coming, but we have had so much impact from colonization and that is what we are dealing with today.
Women have taken the brunt of it all.
The stories of the families who have had a sister, mother, daughter, aunt or cousin murdered or gone missing are very powerful. Here is Sue Martin speaking about the murder of her daughter Terrie:
Daily it’s a struggle for each and every one of us…It’s not easy sharing this story here, telling our stories, but if it will save one woman’s life and one family from what we’re going through then we’re doing something.
…This has to stop. It is an epidemic.
Since 2009, communities throughout the country have gathered on October 4th to remember and honour missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. The Sisters in Spirit vigils are also a space to support grieving families and communities and to call for social change.
This year, Hamilton’s Sisters in Spirit vigil will be held at Honouring the Circle (21 Rosedene Avenue) and will begin at 10am. Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal folks are invited to gather and remember the Aboriginal women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered. For more information about the Hamilton vigil, visit the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/209666729200631