Dr. Jane L. McMillan’s Anthropology class and sponsors welcome Indigenous leaders
People gathered in Immaculata auditorium on March 6, 2019 to attend a learning lodge from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring five panelists who honoured Indigenous women. Outfitted with red dresses and ties, the auditorium was dressed to represent the absent women and men who are missing and murdered.
The evening began with a land acknowledgement and honour dance performed by Shiloh Pictou featuring the Kiju Boys on drum. The drum group from Paqtn’kek includes David Morris, Francis Julian, Cory Julian, Thomas Julian, Dustin Pictou, and Ozzy Clair. Pictou wore a radiant red regalia symbolic of healing and carried an eagle’s feather to honour and keep the creator close according to Terena Francis, coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs at StFX.
Panelists Shane Bernard, Karen Bernard, Jennifer Cox, Devann Sylvester, and Kasha Young then recognized women who empowered them. The resiliency of speakers was inspirational as they shared their realities of coping with trauma and inter-generational trauma.
The photo above shows Sylvester holding a photograph of her grandmother who was murdered when her mother was a young child. Sylvester honoured both women in her life. Sylvester said, “As an Indigenous woman, mother, and student, it is an important duty for me to honour the Indigenous women in my life that supported me and became my role models. For whatever reason, society has devalued Indigenous women throughout history which has major consequences for us to thrive and be successful in today's world. I am aware that I am 3 times more likely to be a victim of violence or killed which makes me aware of my surroundings every day of my life. My grandmother Marie Ninnian Marshall was a victim of homicide shortly after my mothers birth, which robbed us of ever knowing her. My way of being resilient is to become successful in my education and future teaching career, to teach my 4 year old son to be a good man and respect all women in his life, to tell my grandmothers story, and to participate in events like these that focus on honouring Indigenous women. In Mi'kmaq history, our societies were matriarchal and based around respect for women because women are the creators of life. This needs to come back and be acknowledged, and the learning lodge did an amazing job acknowledging that respect. I am very proud to be a Mi'kmaq woman.”
Common threads of discussion among speakers were the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry and Moose Hide Campaign. In light of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry final report scheduled for publication this April, Cox questioned the briefness of the inquiry leading her to doubt that it accounts for all missing women and children.
Panelists mentioned a shared concern for their own and their children’s wellbeing during everyday-life situations in Nova Scotia. Pauses during the speeches were most powerful as they personified the silenced voices of local missing and murdered Indigenous women and men.
Dr. Jane L. McMillan was host of the event sponsored by the department of Anthropology, Anthropology 234, Kerry Prosper, Indigenous Student Society and Indigenous Student Affairs.
The question and answer period with panelists included some prepared questions from the Anthropology 234 students and spontaneous questions from the audience. A Guatemalan advocate and ally in the audience raised concern for the issue of missing and murdered Guatemalan children at this time. The woman referred to a recent case from Guatemala where a state-run home for women minors recently went up in flames claiming 41 of 56 lives.
A takeaway from the event is the pervasiveness of the issue regarding missing and murdered women nationally and internationally. Listening to the first-hand struggles of colleagues and community members who are directly impacted by this issue was poignantly discomforting.
The Moose Hide Campaign is a movement of people standing up to end violence against women from coast to coast. Moose Hide Campaign adverts including leather or non-leather pins are available on the table outside The Xaverian Weekly newsroom by the StFX Store in Bloomfield Centre Room 111D for those interested in supporting the campaign.