The Sisters in Spirit Walk is set to take place Monday, honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across the country.
Brandon Friendship Centre Knowledge Keeper Frank Tacan said the memorial walk will commemorate and honour the memories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls while acting as a call to action to address the crisis.
“Our sisters are lost all right across Canada and it’s still happening today,” Tacan said. “We’re fighting for our sisters.”
The walk will begin at Stanley Park around 4 p.m. and wind its way down to the Assiniboine River at Dinsdale Park. The walk will be lead by the Sweet Medicine Singers, who will be singing and drumming songs. Tacan encouraged those who attend to join in on the singing. The walk will end in a petal ceremony, releasing flower petals into the Assiniboine River honouring the memories of those who have died or disappeared.
Tacan said he is honoured to be part of the walk and appreciates the push for cultural change in Brandon and the country as a whole — colonization damaged Indigenous teachings and cultures and there is renewed drive to stand up and reclaim cultural practices that have been lost.
Before colonization, women and men stood united together, he said, but they were separated as their traditional ways of life were pushed out, leading to generations of lost Indigenous people.
Tacan said there is a push to reclaim Indigenous culture as a step to addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A part of this drive is emphasizing the need for men to become warriors and help protect families and women.
Now, there is a fight to regain identity and unite people together, by reclaiming power, culture and tradition.
Overall, statistics show one in four Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime and they are three times more likely to experience frequent violence in comparison to non-Indigenous women.
The report, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, released in June 2019, concluded there are thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or disappeared in Canada.
Indigenous women are six times more likely to be the victims of homicide in comparison to non-Indigenous women.
The report included calls to action, hoping Canadians will read the document, learn about Indigenous history and take steps to confront racism and other forms of discrimination when they see it.
Reclaiming Power and Place characterized the crisis as a “genocide” against Indigenous peoples that was made possible by the actions and inaction by governments rooted in colonialism. The report concluded that colonial violence, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ+ and two-spirit people are embedded in everyday life, resulting in many Indigenous people becoming accustomed to violence.
The report also said Canadian society has shown an “appalling apathy” in addressing the issue.
There are believed to be between 2,500 and 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada; however, the report indicates quantifying the total number of those affected is not possible.
Tacan said he hopes to see support from all Brandonites because the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
He believes the walk can help inspire young women and help them feel more connected to the community because Sisters in Spirit shows they are valued and needed.
Tacan added participating in the walk can serve as a great jumping-off point to become more involved to help heal and address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
“It’s going to be a good ceremony,” Tacan said. “Come out. We have to put this judgment away. Not every First Nation, Indigenous people, Métis are bad. We were just labelled that way because of colonization.”
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun