Last night I attended an information session in Antigonish about Sisters in Spirit, a research, education and policy initiative created by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in our country. "More than 582 Aboriginal women and girls are missing or have been lost through violence. Each one is loved and missed by family in friends," reads the poster.
In 2010 Sisters in Spirit published a research report, "What Their Stories Tell Us", that contains statistics as well as stories about the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. We heard one of these stories last night, and there was also a moving presentation by NWAC activist Rose Julian honoring Mi'kmaq women whose lives were lost to violence, and issuing a call to action.
Their stories tell us that these women were loved and honored by their family and friends, and had amazing talents and gifts. They also demonstrate how systemic racism, colonialism and poverty have had (and continue to have) cruel and violent effects on the lives of Aboriginal women, families and communities.
Federal funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative was recently cut. All of us need to support this initiative to ensure that this vital work can continue. We must end violence against Aboriginal women and girls and challenge the racist, sexist and colonialist systems that perpetuate it.
Here are some links:
Their spirits live within us: Marching for murdered and missing Indigenous women (rabble.ca article by Krystalline Krass) http://www.rabble.ca/news/2011/02/their-spirits-live-within-us-marching-murdered-and-missing-indigenous-women
What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative http://www.nwac.ca/sisters-spirit-research-report-2010