Today, February 14th, is the global day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
In Canada, first nations women are seven times more likely to be murdered than other women. They are three and a half times more likely to be victims of violence than non-native women.
There is no way to know exactly how many first nations and aboriginal women have been murdered, or have gone missing in Canada and the USA, because no reliable database exists. Sisters in Spirit, a research initiative whose funding was cut by the Harper government in 2010, counted over 600 cases of missing and murdered first nations women. Another database has numbers as high as 824 murdered and missing first nations women, just from 1980 to 2013.
Between 2000 and 2008, 153 cases of murder were identified in the Native Women Association of Canada’s Sisters In Spirit database. First nations women make up only 3% of the total female population in Canada, but 10% of the female homicides in Canada in the 2000 to 2008 period. An additional 115 women in the database are still missing.
To quote NWAC: “The overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in Canada as victims of violence must be understood in the context of a colonial strategy that sought to dehumanize Aboriginal women.” The violence that is perpetuated against Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations women is rooted in colonial violence and racism.
In the United States, on some reservations, the murder rate for Native women is ten times the national average. Some 88% of these types of crimes are committed by non-Indians.
Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations like Amnesty International have condemned the United States and Canada for their inaction with regards to the violence against indigenous women.
For decades, Indigenous women in Canada have held marches, vigils and rallies on February 14th to honor the Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past thirty years. The vigil was started over 20 years ago in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Mainstream feminist organizations have ignored the significance of the February 14th date in planning One Billion Rising, and have dismissed or belittled indigenous activists like Lauren Chief Elk, who have protested the coopting of the February 14th date.
Here are important links and resources:
Murder of Indigenous Women and Community Activism:
Youtube movie on the Downtown East Side, the roots of the Memorial March, violence against indigenous women and the activism of women in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.
The Save Wįyąbi Mapping Project, which shows unsolved and solved murders of indigenous women in the United States and Canada.
Crucial acts about the missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada.
The Native American Women of Canada’s report on missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada: “What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters In Spirit Initiative.”
Indigenous people in Canada creating their own database of the missing and murdered, in part because the government will not do it.
The Women’s Memorial March in the Downtown East Side: “ “Why is it such an uphill battle to get justice for missing and murdered women and their families and communities? We are calling for a national and international public inquiry led by family and community members. We need political will at all levels of government to address these tragedies as well as ongoing gendered violence, poverty, and racism.”
Government collusion with violence against indigenous women.
Individuals on why they participate in the Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women:
Why I March: Marlene George ”When I realized how the march came about I was horrified that such violence could be thrust upon another human being to that degree and was immediately taken by the importance of this work.”
Sandra Delarond: ”Lorna Lynn Blacksmith and her family are from Cross Lake. It just rattled my being to know that such a young woman from my home had dissappeared from the streets of Winnipeg. The media portrayed her as a sex trade worker – just another Aboriginal woman who was responsible for her own misfortune. Her community remembered her as a dedicated army cadet, strong and carefree young woman with dreams.”
Danielle Boudreau: “February 14, 2006 the First Annual Memorial March for All the Missing and Murdered Women of Edmonton was started [...] Two weeks later, on February 26, 2006, my younger sister was found murdered in her home, stabbed to death by her friend over a cell phone and a guy. Now the March had a new meaning to me.”
Raven Bowen: “She was calling out in bewilderment and anger to her society, a society where patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism unite in callous and dangerous ways. The blood of poor women, Indigenous women, and women of colour mark our streets such that we cannot march but a few steps without stopping. “
Maya Rolbin-Ghanie: “I want to walk down the street alone at night with no other distraction than the curve of the moon and the wind at my back and the shifting of the leaves. It’s unacceptable, all the blood and pain of daughters still pooling and seeping into the ground all around us.”
Coopting of the Memorial March by Eve Ensler and One Billion Rising:
Lauren Chief Elk’s Open Letter to Eve Ensler
There is No “We”: V-Day, Indigenous Women and the Myth of Shared Gender Oppression: “The actions made by V-Day on February 14, 2013 bulldozed and railroaded existing grassroots organizing by Indigenous women, and then attempted to silence Indigenous women for dissenting. This was not the first time that V-Day and Ensler were condemned by Indigenous women, and these actions are unfortunately emblematic of mainstream feminism and its anti-violence movement.”
Valentine’s Day and V-Day: “February 14th is an iconic day for Indigenous women in Canada, with marches, vigils, and rallies being held for decades to honor the over 600 Indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing on Turtle Island, most of them over the last 30 years. It is an opportunity for us to come together to grieve the loss of many women, to remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to the continued struggle for justice. Despite the fact that women continue to go missing or are murdered, there is minimal to no action by the state of Canada to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.”
It would be near impossible to name all the indigenous women in the United States and Canada who have been murdered, or are missing, but, in an effort to avoid disappearing these women further and turning them into a mass of nameless faces, here is a small list of some of the women who have recently been murdered or gone missing in Canada and the United States.
Cheyenne Fox, 20 years old. Died in April 2013 in Toronto under suspicious circumstances. Police refused to investigate.
Bella Laboucan-McLean, 25, died under suspicious circumstances in on July 20th, 2013 in Toronto.
Tricia Boisvert, 36. Lived in Montreal. Disappeared on January 17th, 2014, found dead in Ottawa. Homicide.
Courtney Johnstone, 26. Grande Prairie resident, reported missing to the RCMP on Jan. 30, 2014. Police have revealed that her disappearance was a homicide.
Hanna Harris, from Montana. 21 years old, went missing July 4th 2013. Found dead July 8th 2013. Family believes her death was a homicide.
Summer Dawn Bear, 15 years old. Missing since January 17th 2014 from her Saskatoon residence
Jenilee Rose Ballyntyne, 22. Murdered in Winnipeg around January 24th, 2013.
Kelsey Kahpeechoose, teenager. Missing from the City of Prince Albert since June 16th, 2014.
“We are here to honour and remember the women, and we are here because we are failing to protect women from poverty and systemic exploitation, abuse and violence. We are here in sorrow and in anger because the violence continues each and every day and the list of missing and murdered women gets longer every year” Marlene George
Today, I stand in solidarity with the people marching to honor the missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada and the United States.
I acknowledge that this post was written on the traditional territory of the Lenape people.
Eleven-year old C.D.! LOOK OVER HERE! It’s me! Or you! Or both!
Yes, I know I have red hair now – weird, huh? Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy eleventh birthday! Remember all those times in 6th grade when you were all “when I’m twenty two, none of this terrible stuff will matter?” Well, I’m twenty-two now, as it happens. And I’ve been thinking a lot about you.
I know, I know. The plan was for me to forget all about that year. I know. But as it happens, there were changes to the plan.
Trust me, you’ll like the changes. Eventually.
Oh, hi, dear Readers! Yes, I’m having a conversation with the eleven-year old version of me. Kinda weird, huh?
So, I should probably explain myself before this conversation gets any weirder. As you’ve probably figured out by now, this blog does not (usually) serve as my online diary. True, I discuss a lot of super-personal things on the blog, but it’s not a personal blog per se – it’s a blog about social justice and geekery and pop culture. And rants. Lots of rants.
All this to war you that this post is – well, it’s very personal. It’s not a post about feminism or pop culture, except inasmuch as it is a post about a self-identified feminist (me).
You see, it’s my birthday. Or it was my birthday a couple of days ago – I’m not publishing the post on the day-of because this year, my birthday was on a weekend, and traffic always goes waaaaay down on the weekends.
And I thought: well, it’s my birthday. I should write a birthday post!
So I started writing a nice, upbeat birthday post where I discussed nice, upbeat things. But then the birthday post warped. I saw the ghost of 11 year old CD popping up between sentences, pulling paragraphs off-topic, making me think about things I didn’t really want to think about. Like the fact that I hate my birthdays.
And the fact that when I was 11, I was convinced that at 22 I would finally be happy enough to forget all about that horrid 6th grade year.
I could have fought the warping, I suppose. But I remembered that 11-year-old me was convinced that 22 year old me would be awesome and happy and confident (so happy, and awesome and confident that she would forget all about that horrid 6th grade year). And I figured I owed that 11 year old something for believing in me so hard.
So this isn’t a nice, upbeat birthday post anymore. It’s the birthday post where I give the ghosts free reign.
[Fair warning: this is the part where it gets sad]
Here’s the thing: I usually try not to think about my birthday. My past few have been pretty terrible, for various reasons – family stuff, depressions, anxiety, a darth vader boyfriend, an abusive roommate. Even this birthday was bad, since on the day-of, I had a big fever and spent most of the day in bed praying for someone to rip my throat out (this wasn’t a suicide thing – my throat was SUPER sore).
I also dread my birthdays because they’re… all about me. I mean, the entire idea of birthdays is that they’re *your* special day, right? And the idea of people congratulating me, or saying happy birthday, or giving me presents – the idea of people paying any kind of extra attention to me – makes me feel selfish.
I dread birthdays because, somewhere deep down in the lizard brain part of my psyche, I believe that I don’t deserve that kind of attention – minor as it is – even for a day. I believe that I’m not good enough.
So I feel like I sham, like I’m somehow tricking people into giving me attention.
Yeah, it’s pretty screwed up.
But at the same time, there’s something reassuring about these emotions, icky as they are. Because the feelings of selfishness and worthlessness I get on my birthday? Are a reminder of the fact that I don’t feel that way ALL THE TIME anymore. Those feelings have – slowly, very slowly – stopped being my daily reality.
The eleven year old version of me just fell over in shock: “Wait, what? You mean it’s actually POSSIBLE to spend entire days without feeling like a horrible person?”
Eleven was a bad year for me. I mean, middle school as a general rule was pretty terrible, but if middle school was purgatory, sixth grade was hell. My family had moved back to France for a year. Which was an… interesting experience.
I was introduced to the joys of public humiliation as an education strategy. I was bullied at school. I learned all about kids following you and calling you mean names. I learned about teachers who said “all Americans” were stupid – in front of the whole class, and knowing I was American.
6th grade was also the last year my parents were together. And it was not a good year. Hell, by that point, I was a law-abiding citizen of the State of Denial, and even I couldn’t deny that things were terrible in my family. Really terrible. Now, I was still a law-abiding citizen of the State of Denial, so I was also convinced that if I were the Perfect Daughter(tm), my parents would be happy together again.
You will be shocked to learn that strategy did not work.
On top of everything else, I was living in the Metaphorical House that
Love Emotional Abuse Built. So I spent a lot of time feeling sad and angry and depressed and anxious about all the horrible things happening in my life… and then, because this is the way the Architecture of the House built by Emotional Abuse works, I would blame myself for feeling sad and angry. I would tell myself that I was a terrible person for feeling sad and angry and depressed. I would do everything I possibly could to hide the fact that I wasn’t perfectly happy all the time.
Like I said, not a good year.
It was also that year that I came up with a brilliant coping strategy [note that I am nothing if not brilliant in my coping strategies]. Whenever I felt (understandably) sad/angry/overwhelmed/depressed/anxious about all the horrible things happening to me, I would tell myself to snap out of it by saying: “When I’m twenty two, I will laugh about this. When I’m twenty two, I’ll be so awesome that none of this will matter. “
So yeah, 11 year old me. I’m finally twenty two. Very exciting!
And, I mean, clearly I’ve deviated from the plan. Clearly I’m still thinking about 6th grade.
I don’t laugh when I think about our year in 6th grade. I don’t think that what happened to us was insignificant. It did matter. It does matter. Remembering certain events still makes me want to curl up in a closet and cry (the Retainer Incident? UGH).
I know we thought that forgetting all those horrible things would make me happy. I know that was the plan.
But here’s the good news, 11-year-old-me. Every year since… oh, the 12th grade… I’ve become progressively happier. And every year since then, you and I have been on a slow but undeniable upward slope.
Things are getting better.
[Everyone else: OH FINALLY, WE GET TO THE HAPPY PART OF THE BIRTHDAY POST]
And seriously, I realize how exquisitely lucky I am that this is true. But it is a fact, dear 11-year old me, that my life – your life – our life – has been on a slow-but-noticeable upward slope for the past five years.
And before you object, Ms. Middle Schooler, that this year I had the second of my major depressions, so how can I say that things are getting better – notice how much more quickly I recovered this time? Notice the fact that I managed to start ablog while in the worst phase of the depression? And that I still was on deans honor list, and that I got a therapist to finally work with me on my anxiety issues, and that I found a treatment (FINALLY) for my migraines?
Yes, I know, it’s a surprise. We were supposed to forget and get happy. But the thing that let me be happy wasn’t forgetting. It was remembering. And confronting. And thinking about all the horrible things until I understood them well enough to see the structure of the House that Emotional Abuse Built. And when I saw the House that surrounded me, I could kick open a fucking window and BREATHE.
And every year, as I dismantle that house more and more, as I discover the dark things lurking in the hallways and the attics and the basements – as I deal with those terrible tacky furnishings and scary paintings and the giant piles of rotting garbage in the basement – things get better and better.
Seriously, house renovations are the best. Try them.
See, 11-year-old-me? I told you you’d like the changes to the plan. It wasn’t a bad plan, don’t get me wrong – I admire your imaginative coping strategies – but I think this adaptation is even better. I think you’d be pretty happy with where we ended up.
[Hey, I think you'd even like the red hair. Eventually. I know I did!]
And you know what? Happy birthday, eleven-year-old-me. You deserve it. I know, I know, the voices in your head are screaming that You’re Selfish and Terrible and Awful and Stuff for your audacity in Daring To Have A Birthday. But those voices have issues. Don’t listen to them.
Listen to ME.
I realize this is too little, too late, given that you can’t actually HEAR me, but: you were a pretty awesome kid. And you managed to be awesome in spite of the House of Tacky Furnishings and Dark Monsters and Scary Paintings and All That Stuff in the Basement.
So thank you. Because if our life is awesome now, it’s because you were awesome back then.
And thanks for believing in me.
I’ll say it again: Happy birthday, 11-year-old me. You deserve a good one.
good bad weird news, faithful readers! The Feminist Batwoman seems to be back. I found this picture on my laptop today. So she’s probably been messing with my files again.
… or maybe she was just trying to wish me happy birthday?
It bears repeating, though: LIKE I KEEP SAYING, I am definitely not the Feminist Batwoman, and she and I have nothing to do with each other. I am a law-abiding citizen, and the Feminist Batwoman is a vigilante, and if you know who she is, you should definitely Report Her to the Authorities.
This is just a quick note to warn everyone that I am currently separated from my one true love (ie: my computer) for reasons that are beyond my control. ARGH! ARGH, I say!
So blog posting is off-line until further notice (as is email communication and… all of those lovely computer related things)
Least you ask: I am not writing this on my computer. Sadly.
ARGH, I continue to say.
Hopefully the situation will be rectified forthwith.
(anyone have advice for solving keyboard problems for macs caused by a close encounter with olive oil? Cleaning has not helped. Computer otherwise fine…)