p(dropcap> A paper bag for tissued tears. A sprig of cedar. A small red “tobacco prayer tie.” These were offered to all who came to tell the stories of their loved ones to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ visit to Edmonton November 6 – 9, 2017. People were also welcome to tell their stories of survival of violence and exploitation. Commissioners, lawyers, and statement-takers listened to 75 stories over the three day period.
I was privileged to be part of support teams for two women whose stories were told in private. I also sat in on a public testimony session.
One mother spoke of the “unnamed offenders who walk among us.” They know who they are, but do they know the eternal anguish their actions left behind? So few of the perpetrators have been found and brought to court. This mother hopes to know who killed her daughter 20 years ago and hopes that person is convicted while she is still alive.
The brother of a woman who has been missing for five years was asked for his recommendations. He replied, “What can we do for the girls today so they don’t become victims?” The women who are missing or murdered can teach us about what is needed, such as more safe places. Her aunt said a toolkit of resources could be developed for northern communities. Her grandmother said, “it will be tough until we hear from her. Come back home, we miss you so much.”
The paper bags of tears, cedar, and tobacco prayer ties were burned in the sacred fire at the concluding ceremony. These ashes will be carried to each community visited by the Commissioners. Those who gave testimony and their supporters were offered a gift of reciprocity, an important cultural practice. Seeds were given to Métis and First Nations and non-Indigenous supporters like me. I received blue aster seeds which will I will plant in the Memorial Garden behind E4C.
I encourage readers to read the Interim report on the website: www.mmiwg-ffada.ca.
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).