According to the 2015 documentary, Our Sisters In Spirit, there have been roughly 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women since 1980. In the documentary made by Niagara College graduate Nick Printup, the statistics highlight that Indigenous women make up four per cent of the female population in Canada and 16 per cent of all homicide cases involving women.
These particularly shocking statistics are the reason that the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition at Brock exists and that’s to be able to promote awareness about the crisis that is happening across our country; a crisis that affects many families and friends among us.
This past week, three events to support the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous women were held at Brock University. On September 19 and 22, there were workshops for The Faceless Dolls Project. The project gathers people to create fabric dolls without faces to bring awareness to the epidemic.
“Each doll represents a missing or murdered woman. Each one is unique [because] each [missing or murdered] woman is unique,” said Celeste Smith, Co-Founder of Indigenous Solidarity Coalition at Brock. “We can honour these women [by creating these dolls]. Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) started the faceless dolls project [and] we have [borrowed] their idea to raise awareness.”
On Sept. 20, the faceless dolls that were crafted by volunteers, supporters and various students in the first workshop appeared on display at an event in the former Sean O’Sullivan Theatre. The event, which was hosted by Indigenous Solidarity Coalition at Brock, brought awareness of this cause into the Brock community by including a documentary screening, a book reading and signing, a panel discussion and a song drum performance by the Strong Water Women.
Goody Dockstader, a member of the Strong Water Women, said that, “the Strong Water Women are a group of women who meet at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre to sing and learn hand drum songs.” She added that the group has been asked to perform at a number of events. In relation to the event at Brock, Goody said that, “I would have come even if I wasn’t a part of [the Strong Water Women]. It’s so important [to be aware about the] missing and murdered women across Canada. Things need to change [and] it’s important to be active in supporting and providing knowledge to the public because if the general public doesn’t understand [the epidemic] then they don’t have a reason to be engaged.”
Among attendance were various members of the community, a variety of clubs and faculty members such as Acting President Brian Hutchings. The event also welcomed family members of victims, such as a mother of a young missing Indigenous woman whose case remains unsolved years later.
Before the screening of Nick Printup’s documentary Our Sisters In Spirit, several noteworthy speakers took to the stage to address the crowd. Jackie Labonte, the Healing and Wellness Coordinator for the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, started off by saying, “we gather together to offer our words of gratitude,” as she lit the four sacred medicines to burn. “As human beings, our responsibility is to acknowledge each other as we walk upon earth,” said Labonte. She continued by stating that, “unfortunately, just within the last couple of days we’ve added to the list [of missing and murdered indigenous women] again but when we come together in numbers, we can make a difference.”
The Our Sisters In Spirit 2015 documentary by Nick Printup features families of victims, political figures like Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, researchers and many members of indigenous communities across Canada. Through a contemporary-style documentary, Printup focuses on the serious issue at hand by speaking directly to those affected and involved. For example, one highlight of the documentary was the national use of the hashtag ‘am I next?’ across several social media channels by female members of indigenous communities.
Due to his documentary and its significance, Printup has been busy travelling across Canada showing screenings of his film and has also been invited to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to showcase the project to Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.
The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada is an important issue that should be taken seriously. In promoting awareness and showing respect to the cause through events such as creating faceless dolls and the screening of Printup’s documentary, the community can stand together and spark change.
For more information, you can join the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition at Brock at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1864547213771880/