(for background, please read: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/grim-number-jumps-in-study-241776001.html )
Eight hundred and twenty-four missing and murdered Indigenous women (and girls). Eight hundred and twenty-four. You know, I keep repeating that numbering in my head and out loud: eight hundred and twenty-four, eight hundred and twenty-four, and I cannot even begin to equate my numeric mantra to human lives . . .to not only human lives, not the lives of Indigenous women: of our sisters, mothers, cousins, friends, aunties… to the women we come from. We owe our lives to Indigenous women, and yet where are we? eight hundred and twenty-four sisters gone from his earth. It is numbing and it hurts a place deep in my heart when I think of these women: what did they look like? who held them in their womb for nine months? what ancestors did they come from? what land birthed their lineage?
It makes me sad that these women (and girls) are now numbers; it makes me more sad that before we had these facts and figures broke, these women did not exist in mainstream consciousness. I’m not sure if they still do. When I think of these women, I can’t help but pictures my sister in law’s face, my mother’s, or any of the Indigenous women that I know and love in my life.
Eight hundred and twenty-four missing, murdered sisters speaks volumes to the status of Indigenous women in Canadian society, and to the devaluing of Indigenous women’s bodies. Indigenous women’s bodies have been the first and most violent site of colonization since contact: first women’s bodies then the land, because they can not be separated. To hurt us, to hurt our communities, colonizers knew to attack the women first. This onslaught of violence never ended, it continues to this day. The existence of Indigenous women in mainstream media and consciousness is pathologized: sex workers, drug addicts, welfare queens… these are harmful tropes that play over and over again on our televisions and newspapers. And it is true: there are Native women sex workers, drug addicts, and those who access welfare, but instead of examining why, people just assume: assume that they’re lazy, they’re inherently promiscuous. Looking deeper would mean discovering your own responsibility, your own privilege, and your own tango with colonial history: things that make you uncomfortable and unsettled on this land.
The truth is, 80% of our missing, murdered sisters were not drug addicts or sex workers; but this doesn’t mean that the 20% who are have lives less valuable, let’s not start creating dangerous hierarchies of acceptability.
Eight hundred and twenty-four missing, murdered sisters – how many more women do we have to lose to make you listen?