MMIW/G… Tears of Sorrow, Frustration & Sometimes Hope

The ongoing frustrations regarding the $53 million MMIW/G national inquiry often result in the  impulse to throw up our hands in defeat. We won’t though, not ever, because we will never forget our lost; all literally coursing in our DNA. That’s the source of the strength that lifts our hands even higher for justice and equities. We also from time to time, get a glimpse that the painful work has opened another sliver of recognition that says, maybe this mountain has moved another millimeter. It doesn’t matter, where these slivers come from, this is enough to offer another breath of hope too.

The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women/Girls (#MMIW/G) inquiry has been a dismal effort from the start. From the incredible decision to omit any police involvement, therefore no questioning of culpability already demonstrated by their history of ignoring or dismissing the concerns of family of the missing or murdered, to ignoring the several reports of direct police misconduct toward Indigenous women. Then onto the bad news of the inexplicable lack of coordination for how the inquiry would run to nearly non-existent communication with the families of the MMIW/G.

There are too many Indigenous families touched by this issue; mine included.  We have lost a cousin, 19 yr old Roberta Ferguson, missing for 28 years now without a hint of what happened to her. My mother has also inexplicably lost two good friends, also never found.

The work to get to this point has taken over 20 years. Twenty years of women bravely standing, shouting, and marching to every government service door possible to be heard. They, we, all deserve better than this. So, we raise our voices in media and in front of commissioners and to the inquiry heads, hoping that now is the time, we will matter. That now is the time we will matter enough to have systems genuinely and permanently altered to stop at least most of the behaviors and policies that leave us adrift, and for some of us, lost forever.

People ask, what can we do? Well, there are so many issues that need help, but at the least, for every issue, we can sign those petitions, we can write/email/tweet a simple note to PMs, MPs, legislators, and even the National Inquiry directly to say, we care about this and we want to see the work done. Donate to groups like Families of Sisters in Spirit, to assist in the battle for legal and media representation.

Don’t be shy, have a crack at the racist comments in every news story about the MMIW or Indigenous in general. Speak back, not to them necessarily, but to the publishers and editors who cater to whomever speaks loudest in their comments. Arm other readers with solid knowledge. Or find another way to demonstrate solidarity that helps all our hearts feel a little less isolated and unheard.

Like this group who did just that recently. A dance company called, Generation Dance Studio in Ft. MacMurray, AB. They brought their message to the public in a very moving way. They created a dance tribute to the MMIW/G. It’s very touching to see their effort to show they see us and they care.

I invite you to watch their performance added to their Facebook page linked here. Within these discouraging days, these hearts sought out ours, and it added to all the difference for another day…  Given the same ol’ recent events of the inquiry, we could use every lift we can get.

Hiy hiy,

RL

https://www.facebook.com/generationdance/videos/760718694087565/

For those unaware, a red dress represents a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.

 

Photo Project: … Reluctant Releases …

Portrait 1Relentless year called
I became a waterfall
I was swirled away

Portrait 2Released old dreams; moved
They commanded me, let go
Heart crushed from goodbyes

Portrait 3New is on its way
Release dross for destiny
All reward is nigh

Portrait 4Trust what angels say
Tears are healing; scars get cleansed
Real love fills all wounds

Life is pushy when it wants the best for you. Sometimes you have to give in & give up, a lot…

When this photo shoot was set up in the spring, I knew I wanted to wear the dress I’d hung in public the previous October 4th as requested by Metis artist, Jaime Black. Her ‘REDress Project’ is an art-based awareness campaign in tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women. Red dresses represent these women. (See tree photo and background notes here)

I’d chosen to hang my dress under my beloved weeping willow tree. That seemed like a poignant statement in itself.  At the time of that participation, I was soul surfing through a course of life-altering loss, trauma, and life and death events.

In a way, even that gorgeous tree experienced the same before it let loose its majestic beauty. I’d saved it years before from being brutally hacked at when my ex would attempt to eradicate the ‘strange weed’ growing in the middle of our yard.  …  I guess my point is, there was a whole lot of understanding under and within that tree.

So, when I met up with Nadya Kwandibens, a very skilled and renowned photographer who honored me with her talent, she suggested we head to a local park and search for more of a nature-based/natural background.  When we arrived, she scanned the landscape and then she pointed and said, “There – head over there, I think we should get you under those trees” –  the weeping willows.

Nope, she had no idea of my story, it was just how this particular circle would finish.  It seemed like a good omen and I suppose it was.  I have come through what I think is the greater part of those trials and I have gained new strengths and continue to build them.

From a time I was certain I couldn’t even breathe for another 5 minutes to standing up tall enough to see – that no matter how hard the testing, no matter how hard life knocks at me, I will keep getting up. I know that now, because even when there shouldn’t have been a way I could have, I somehow did.

Like my tree, I am still standing.

RL

 

Photos by Nadya Kwandibens, Red Works Photography
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/discover-challenges/portraits/
You and I, there’s air in between

The REDress Project

Red Dress Project 3

My red dress, hanging under the Weeping Willow tree
The REDress project, created by Métis artist Jaime Black, highlights the issue of the missing & murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

October 4th is a day to honor the lives of over 4,000 Indigenous women tragically taken from their loved ones. It is also a day meant to raise awareness about the ongoing violence, at significantly higher rates toward Indigenous women and girls than any other demographic in Canada.

This effort was started by the Sisters In Spirit Vigil (SIS) organization and the Native Women’s Resource Centre in Toronto nine years ago, and includes support services for the family members of the missing and murdered women (#MMIW).

The group began in answer to the lack of resources through any government services and the continuing lack of public response on any meaningful scale.

Current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper outraged many when he said in an interview on the CBC last December,  that looking into this issue, particularly with a national inquiry was “not high on his government’s radar”.  To date, despite a later outright denial of what he said in that recorded video, his government has continued to do nothing about the issue.

In response, artist Jaime Black chose to highlight the issue with her project designed to represent the women with red dresses in a photo display that is being shown in various galleries across the country. In various interviews she said she would like people to hang their own red dresses wherever in their community or wear one on October 4th in solidarity for the women and their families.

The public can also participate in the honoring by attending various candlelight vigils in various cities and/or with a virtual candle online project:  http://www.october4th.ca/

RL

Please see Jaime’s full story at http://www.redressproject.org

For more information about the Sisters in Spirit group, see: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/giving-life/community-happenings/sisters-in-spirit-honouring-the-lives-of-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women/

“I Will Never”…

It’s a rare occurrence for me to re-blog, but sometimes someone speaks so eloquently from their hearts, that I feel compelled to share those strongly felt thoughts.  They can be in the form of a beautiful poem, a touching story, or as is the one I am about to share – words from a heart-felt voice who speaks out in recognition of their privilege in life. She is speaking of her view of life for those of Indigenous ancestry from the other side their experiences.  I found it very touching on many levels , and I was grateful for her generosity of spirit.

I’ve also attached a link to a video from a “white redneck” who says “take responsibility white people”.  His is a rather saltier version, but it’s no less compelling.

The first story begins here, but you will have to click the link following for the finish…

lac-la-biche-mission-1896“It would be another 100 years before the last residential school was closed in Canada — 1996. I graduated high school in 1996. I was preparing for my freshman year at college. I was under the impression that residential schools all looked like the picture above: black and white, old and grainy, things of the past, sad but irrevocable pieces of history.

Today I’m sitting in a cafe that’s live-streaming Edmonton’s Truth & Reconciliation Events. Due to the crazy traffic and parking fiasco I went through, I wasn’t able to make it physically to The Shaw Conference Centre today. Live-streaming is the next best thing, I guess.

What am I to think?

I’m white.

I’m Christian.

The whites.

The Christians.

We were the haters, the oppressors, the mongerers, the rapers, the abusers, the greedy mouths that took away almost everything from you… dear First Peoples of Turtle Island.

No, I’m not trying to impress you with my terminology. I am trying in my small broken way to address you with the respect you deserve. As I sip on my tea, I’m pondering: “What now?” The TRC cannot be both the beginning and the end. Surely not! But still”…

“I WILL NEVER” – A LETTER FROM A WHITE CHRISTIAN AT THE TRC

And,  now for a word from a self-described white redneck.  If you have an extra 5 minutes,  here is a great video from a white redneck who says, “take responsibility”. The language is rough in some spots, but his point is only underlined by it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGJt0JXX05M