Opinion: MMIWG 2SLGBTQQIA, National Awareness Day
- Alyson Bear | May 31, 2020
As an Indigenous woman, this is close to my heart. This is a serious matter and I feel like it is a dangerous thing to be an Indigenous woman in this society.
On June 3rd, 2019, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls published its 1,200-page report, which included 231 Calls for Justice.
The report includes recommendations to government, the police and the larger Canadian society to help address the rampant levels of violence directed at Indigenous women, girls and peoples. The I and A at the end of the term stand for intersex and asexual.
It also states at page 50 of the inquiry:
“The violence the National Inquiry heard about amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, which especially targets women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures, evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”
Traditionally, Indigenous women held power in their families and communities. This was a threat to the traditional patriarchal colonial hierarchy. Reclaiming the strength of Indigenous women prior to contact ignites a reminder of just how powerful we are as Indigenous women today. Knowing the accurate history of who our ancestors were forms an accurate picture of who we are. Indigenous womanhood has been described as being a sacred identity that was maintained through a knowledge system of balance and harmony. Women were politically, socially, and economically powerful, and held status in their communities and nations.
Indigenous women always had a role that was recognized and honored within their communities and families. This knowledge, truth and connection to our ancestors is our realization today. Our Indigenous women are our modern-day warriors. As
Indigenous peoples, our resilience shines and continues to conquer the impossible. There is a saying that “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” Therefore, our existence is resistance and a beacon of hope for change.
Coming of age ceremonies, naming ceremonies and so on are vital to one’s identity and purpose in their family and community. The lack of traditional structure and support is where I fell into the traps of colonial stereotypes and pressures. This has developed into a form of self-deprecation whereas we are not just inflicting harm on ourselves but inflicting harm each other.
Many of our nations have subconsciously mimicked the colonial state and therefore attached with it the toxic masculinity and patriarchal values. As Indigenous women we are not always safe in society, and sometimes even in our own homes, leaving many with nowhere to turn. And given the situation today with quarantine, domestic violence has been on the rise. From research and statistics online at the Government of Canada, Department of Justice it is stated, “Indigenous females have an overall rate of violent victimization that was double that of Indigenous males and close to triple that of non-Indigenous females.”
This is why it is important to remember who we are and were prior to European contact and reclaim that. Taking care of one another was instilled through ceremony and kinship laws. Through kinship laws and roles, we behaved accordingly to each other for the benefit of the entire community. It is important to speak about those facts as well as the facts of what is happening today but coincided painting an accurate picture.
I for one would have not been able to make it this far through law school as a single mother without my brothers taking on their roles as uncles and having my parents, my grandma and friends be there, and all the beautiful strong inspiring people I have met along the way. It is important to have a solid circle of people you can lean on. That is what I am trying to build for my children who are growing up to be bright, beautiful Indigenous women in a very precarious society.
My friend is an emerging artist whose name is Taylar Belanger but goes by Sohka. She is releasing a new song soon called Protector. This song is about our traditional roles and how traditionally Indigenous men are the protectors and how we need this to come to fruition more than ever. It is time to bring that back and reclaim who we are.