SASKATOON — Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples were honoured Friday night, Oct. 21, with hundreds of female dancers wearing red-coloured regalia performing in front of thousands assembled for the Spirit of our Nations at SaskTel Centre.
The special event is part of the powwow organized by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the first gathering of members of 74 different First Nations communities in Saskatchewan and some from Alberta.
Some family members brought pictures of their deceased loved ones who were victims of abuse and other crimes, like John Vanderkuylen and Lucille Littlefoot, who carried the photo of their daughter Beverly. and one of Chelsea Poorman’s aunts.
FSIN Third Vice Chief Aly Bear, whose portfolio included the MMIWG2S and violence against women, likened the MMIWG2S issue to a pandemic as the victims’ relatives continue to think of what had happened to their loved ones.
“It is like a pandemic that continues to happen. Why does it continue to happen? I’ve been trying to explain this to my daughters and little children. Why do we wear red shirts on Red Shirt Day, what is Red Dress Awareness Day and why does it continue to happen?” said Bear.
“We have to go back to our roots and traditional governance systems. Even before European contact, our women were leaders in our communities. Our women were respected in our communities and they are our life givers in our communities.”
Early this year, Bear, a leading advocate on the issue of MMIWG2S, had a declaration honouring Indigenous women and girls unanimously passed and adopted by the province’s legislative assembly.
“We [women] had that special connection to Mother Earth. We put forward this declaration to honour Indigenous women and girls in the province this year on May the 5th. It was officially adopted,” said Bear, who is also pushing for implementation on the MMIWG2S final report.
“Before being elected [to the FSIN executive] a lot of people said to me that I wasn’t going to be able to get this declaration adopted because the province was never going to adopt this declaration. But now, I’m going to continue to lobby behind that declaration.”
She added that she plans to also lobby to get more funding with the money to be used to create safe spaces for Indigenous women and children who continue to be victims of abuse and other forms of violence as it is something that needs to be addressed and bring awareness to.
FSIN Female Youth Representative Hailey Rose said she has looked up to Bear as her mentor and inspiration as she begins her journey serving the FSIN community.
“She [Bear] has said things that stuck to me and I was thinking about how vulnerable our people can be right now, especially coming out of this pandemic. When it comes to our women, when we’re vulnerable we don’t know how to go about things that are affecting us,” said Rose.
“Violence and abuse have been affecting our families. When you talk about [MMIWG2S] we have to remember the effects that it has on our communities. It does not just affect the family members, it affects all of us. As women, we walk with targets on our backs.”