The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2 Spirit people is May 5th. This is also known as Red Dress Day. Wearing red, or hanging a red dress is a visual reminder of the staggering number of Indigenous women who are no longer with us.
Scarlet Scott (spirit name Waasaanoonde Mawkoons) is a local woman taking action in support of MMIWG2S. Scarlet and her family are walking across Ontario for their own family healing, and to raise awareness for MMIWG2S. They have been on their healing journey since April 24, 2021, when they began walking from Serpent River First Nation, where Scarlet’s spouse is from. They will be walking for the next few months until they reach Whitedog First Nation, close to the Manitoba border, where Scarlet is from. As of today, May 4th, 2021, Scarlet is just west of Thessalon and moving toward Sault Ste Marie.
Scarlet reflects on her journey so far:
“In the time I’ve been walking, I’ve been really thinking about a young girl from my community, April Carpenter whose body was found in the Red River. From her family's words, she loved children and hoped someday to work with them.
Evaline Cameron, who also loved children and worked at the child care centre in Whitedog, taken away from her family without any explanation.
Tina Fontaine, a young woman caught in the tangled webs of society, lost her life and her murderer walks freely, when in reality, her family mourns the memory of a joyful child.
Serena McKay, an almost graduated student from Sagkeeng First Nation, who didn’t get to be at her own graduation.
Delanie Copence, so quiet and homebodied, loved by her sisters and mother beyond what words can describe, given no answers to the last moments of her death, only to be told there were no signs of foul play.”
So many more have been stolen from their lives and families, leaving the families with more questions than answers. The National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report reveals the persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations. Abusing these rights are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The final report, “Reclaiming Power and Place,” places 231 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians.
“Through years and years of genocide, Canada still fails our indigenous women and girls, and I can’t help but at times to feel guilty to have survived my dark times, but it’s with their names written on my heart that I still find strength to walk. It is with the memories that their families share that my feet keep going. Praying and hoping that change will come, and justice will shed light on those missing and murdered, that the families find healing from these injustices,” Scarlet shares.
Scarlet hand crafted a red jingle dress, shaping each cone individually, and fastening them to her red dress. “Each cone has been recycled from pop cans, cleaned, cut and rolled by myself and partner. The dress itself holds a very important story of healing. My grandmother always said to use what is available, and that when items like this are made with love and patience, it holds so much more healing,” Scarlet shares a little more about her jingle dress. Each jingle represents a name of MMIWG2S, men and boys.
Scarlet has worn this dress everyday on her healing journey. She mentioned the sheer weight of the dress was an adjustment in the first few days of walking. Scarlet is also carrying the spiritual weight of the hundreds of names of missing indigenous peoples as she brings them along on her healing journey.
Scarlet shares a sentiment she wrote while walking:
“You were taken a time too soon, without a word. You were gone out of sight. Your laughs and smiles echo through a clouded room, oh how we miss you. I pray for your family, and those who knew you dearly. Tears fill my eyes when I think of your last moments and how you cried for those you held close to your heart. It isn’t fair that you were stripped away. Taken from this earth, your name sake forever a memory. We will always remember. You were someone. Not just a mother, a daughter, or a friend. You were someone who still had so many important things to do. For this we will remember you.”
As Scarlet and her family travel across the North Shore and move towards Sault Ste Marie, the community is encouraged to show their support. Local jingle dress dancers and drummers are invited to join in and show support, however they feel inclined to safely participate. This could be joining the family for a stretch of their walk, making signs, offering medicines, prayers, songs and dances as they pass through.
If you wish to support Waasaanoonde Mawkoons in their family's healing journey, consider donating to their GoFundMe.
Stay with SaultOnline as we continually update Scarlet's story.
Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SaultOnline.com