Beaded Tie campaign spotlights MMIMB

·5 min read

Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services is launching a new initiative today in Portage la Prairie to honour and acknowledge the missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys across Westman, Manitoba and Canada.

The Beaded Tie campaign was inspired by the newly created Ohitika/Ogichidaa Warrior Men’s program and is designed to start conversations in communities about the ongoing crisis, said co-ordinator Jason Gobeil.

“One of the things that we’ve seen in all of our work is that acknowledgment for our women and all of our girls. Now that we’re really starting to see the support come into place to create [a] safe space for our men, we really need to start talking about our murdered and missing Indigenous men.”

Portage was chosen for the launch of the event because of its central location for Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services (DOCFS) staff and Westman residents. Gobeil added they also wanted a larger space where people could gather safely under provincial COVID-19 public health measures.

The Beaded Tie launch coincides with International Men’s Day. The goal of the project is to catalyze new dialogue and awareness around missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys.

In Canada, Indigenous men are at the highest risk of being victims of homicide. According to Statistics Canada, about 2,500 Indigenous people were murdered in Canada between 1982 and 2011 out of 150,000 total murders. About 71 per cent of Indigenous homicide victims were male. Suicide and self-inflicted injuries remain the leading cause of death for First Nation youth and adults up to the age of 44.

Gobeil said the available statistics are shocking, and for the most part the context of loss remains the same in the modern-day as it did 20 years ago.

One of the key aspects of the campaign has been when thinking and talking about the men who have died, to honour and acknowledge them, Gobeil said, along with their families who are still searching and whose questions have gone unanswered.

Ohitika/Ogichidaa and DCOFS are using the organization’s work, services and programs to ensure they are standing united with families.

“Now that we’re creating this beautiful and safe space for men, we also want to make sure that that is rippled out in the community and we are responding to local needs,” Gobeil said.

One of the biggest pieces absent in communities is the narrative around missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys.

Gobeil said it is critical to begin these conversations to inspire change and foster a safe place that will last into the future to address the number of missing and murdered throughout the country.

The idea for a beaded tie was inspired by the Small Red Dress Project, which has seen framed red dresses placed in DOCFS offices.

“We’re always talking about the importance of balance and that balance between men and women not only in our circles of healing but in our communities and what we are trying to do in a preventive nature,” Gobeil said.

Researching ways to generate conversations about missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys led Gobeil to Lydia Daniels, who launched a red tie campaign, tying the symbols around different areas of Winnipeg.

Gobeil said the organization wanted to support her message and work with communities and artists to create a voice that represents Indigenous men.

As a symbol, the beaded tie will serve to inspire people to “see [Indigenous men], honour them and that we will not forget them and we continue to search each and every day.”

DOCFS and Ohitika/Ogichidaa Warriors are serving as advocates for those whose voices have been lost. Gobeil said he hopes people are inspired to light a candle in honour of those who are gone, or research what is happening in their community, region and province when they learn about the campaign.

“When you start unravelling the layers of information that [are] out there … you start seeing there is a story that is not being talked about in our circles,” Gobeil said. “There [are] still injustices happening out there and we want to make sure the voices are being heard from a united standpoint.”

He added the Ohitika/Ogichidaa Warriors program has opened up an area where men can find themselves, reconnect, release the pain they may have been carrying for many years, or release shame they may have felt for not telling their experiences to others.

“There’s so much good that can come out of just starting a conversation,” he said.

Talking about men’s health is creating conversations centred on how men feel, an area that has largely been ignored in society, he said. It can be uncomfortable at first, but powerful change is possible if people can become comfortable being uncomfortable.

The DOCFS agency has been a “trailblazer” in opening up supports for men and boys. It creates an opportunity to open up discussions in all of the communities.

“It was an opportunity to walk with and for our warriors,” Gobeil said.

Beaded Tie participants are encouraged to use the hashtag #MMIMB when sharing stories to help fuel the conversation online. Gobeil said they are trusting people will encourage communities to host vigils, light candles and create online posts to support the campaign.

It can be surprising talking with others to see how insidious the issue is as many community members have lived it or have family members who have been affected.

Beaded tie pins will be available during the event. Gobeil said DOCFS wants the pins to become a symbol that acknowledges and continues the story of missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys and offer a ray of hope and unity.

These symbols will bring people together and help foster reconciliation by starting conversations and to focus on solutions.

“It can really unite the front on a virtual level,” Gobeil said. “When we really start having the conversations, we can really see how this affects each and every one of us.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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