Drumming and Dancing to Heal
Round Dance honours Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Over 150 people crowded into the E4C Alex Taylor gym for the Annual February 14 Memorial for Murdered and Missing Women and Girls. Sisters 4 Sisters organized a Round Dance in the belief that prayer and ceremony heals grief, making room for joy in good memories of loved ones. Drummers stood in the middle of four concentric circles of dancers of all ages for the last dance. I held the hand of a toddler, while teenagers joined hands with seniors. A mother and her tiny daughter wore matching ceremonial skirts. As the drums pulsed through our bodies, I felt hopeful that these young ones would see change in their lifetimes.
Francyne Joe, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) came to be part of the gathering. When she was 8, she learned that her cousin, Monica Jack, aged 12, was last seen on May 6, 1978. She was riding her bike along the Highway of Tears near Merritt, British Columbia. Her bike was found a day later, but her body wasn’t found until 17 years after she was murdered. Garry Taylor Handlen was charged with first-degree murder in December of 2014.
Dee Gratton, originally from Prince George, was reported missing by her mother in 2001. She survived an abusive relationship and moved to Edmonton with her baby. She needed a damage deposit and a home. but there was no support from Social Services at the time. She asked herself, “Why am I begging? There is no home, no money for me and my child. So, I turned to the street.” She worked 95 Street and 118 Avenue. One night, she was stabbed and left for dead in a field near Sherwood Park.
“I found the Crossroads van (E4C). They listened to me and took my “bad date” report. Not one of my rapists has been brought to trial.”
Her message to children and youth at the Round Dance: “You matter. You have strength you don’t know you have. Don’t let them tell you don’t. Always reach out – there are many organizations now to help you.”
Kathy King came “to honour my daughter.” Kathy has created a website, www.MissingCara.ca to foster awareness and give support for the continuation and expansion of the MMIW Inquiry. “In Edmonton, we marched for ten years, thanks to the work of Danielle Boudreau. Now in 2018, we gather to dance. Ceremony heals. “
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).