Aboriginal women, men and children took to King Street to march together from Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services to Ivey Park on Oct. 4 to bring attention to the national issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Purple Spirit was the men’s host drum, led by Jason George of Kettle Point, and Liz Akwienzie led the women singers from Oneida in the Strong Women’s Song.
Denise Stonefish was one of the spokespersons at the event at Ivey Park where a sacred fire burned and the Giveaway Ceremony was held. Passionate speeches were made by orators such as Darlene Ritchie who related the teachings of the Creation Story and Skywoman, and the steps we can take in our communities today to protect women and girls.
Mary Lou Smoke talked about her sister, Debbie Sloss Clarke, who was found dead and abandoned in an apartment in Toronto, and how her murder remains unsolved.
Chief Leslee Whiteye of Chippewas of the Thames shared her work with the urban Indigenous population and her desire that her girls would not be among the MMIW.
Atlohsa’s Earring Blanket was adorned with earrings from community members in commemoration of the lives of people they knew were affected, or to just show they cared. It was displayed proudly next to the work of guest artist Maxine Noel.
Joanne Jackson, residential healer was on hand from Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre to share resources from her program, and she brought Noel to the event to take part. Noel shared a print of the painting that she created for Native Women’s Association of Canada, entitled “Not Forgotten.”
This is the image of a tall, beautiful Indigenous woman dressed in flowing colours of the waters, earth and sky and it is dedicated to the mission of MMIW. The original painting is being used by Native Women Association of Canada and has been commissioned for printing cards, mugs, scarves and such for support in creating change.
Spoken Word artists included Coco/ Corrie George and Jessica Hay, a student at Western University’s Social Justice and Peace Studies. Hay’s poem, Pissed Period, hit the mark with an appreciative audience who responded with whistles and applause.
George’s poem was entitled Sisters, and based on a real-life experience. It was the first time she had read it in public. She said she went missing herself at the age of 17 and after two months she escaped from her phone/ chat line abductor. Asked how she felt by the day’s event, she said “I’m overwhelmed by the unity, the messages of love and that everyone is so open to these.”
“I can’t believe the number of different ethnic groups that were represented here today,” said Stonefish, “plus the OPP, the men and the boys, and the young women singers—I’m inspired.”