We cannot provide care if our women are being murdered. And we definitely cannot stand by as a system refuses to even look for their bodies. We ask society to stand up and say “enough”, to be outraged by this reality, and to oppose these unspeakable acts against our Indigenous women.

IKWEWI “s/he is a woman”

Fifty-one years ago, 19-year-old Helen Betty Osborne was brutally beaten, raped, and then murdered, in an act motivated by her gender and race by four young men.

As Knowledge Keepers we have been around long enough to know that this was not an isolated incident. In fact, thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been sexually abused and murdered since that time.

In a continuation of this violence, we are now talking about a serial killer who specifically targeted our Indigenous women – daughters, mothers, sisters. His acts of violence were not just brutal and deliberate murders, each act included bodies being disposed of in garbage dumps. This is how our women continue to be seen – as garbage, as disposable.

This is unacceptable. This is genocide. And something must be done.

In Anishinaabemowin, we have a word – IKWEWI – which means “s/he is a woman”. The women, girls and Two-Spirit individuals that are being savagely abused because of their gender and race deserve better than what this government is currently doing for them. They are women. They deserve to be known, they deserve to be honoured, AND they deserve to be found. They are our women.

Clan Mothers Healing Village is developing a model to provide mid- and long-term support to women who have been victims of colonial-enforced systemic multi-generational trauma, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking, to help them begin their healing journey.

But we cannot provide this care if our women are being murdered. And we definitely cannot stand by as a system refuses to even look for their bodies. In that regard, we ask:

  • Society to stand up and say “enough”, to be outraged by this reality, and to oppose these unspeakable acts against our Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit sacred beings.
  • We ask the government and related agencies to do more than establish special days on the calendar, and meaningless resolutions on paper.
  • We ask that they develop a grand council of Indigenous Grandmother Elders to outline a solid plan and identify the necessary resources to address these atrocities.
  • We ask people everywhere to start calling this what it is – a long standing genocide; and to insist on an end to this reality.

Today, we say prayers for the families of all the victims and all who are still missing. We say prayers for our daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, and granddaughters because as Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit sacred beings, they are still not safe to be who they are. We say a prayer for our men, acknowledging the sons and brothers who know their responsibility to honour and respect the sacredness of women.

We are broken by the news of our sacred IKWEWI being violated, murdered, and dumped into a garbage site. We are adamant that this cannot continue to happen and are firmly resolved to immediately implement Indigenous-Women-Led solutions that have worked in the past and that will continue to work in identifying the changes that are needed today. Indigenous women historically have been the backbone in all our nations from coast to coast.

When we think of the thousands who are still missing and presumed dead across Canada, we hope that it will bring us together in soulful compassion. Let our willingness to step up, to go beyond what we think is right or wrong, and to walk hand in hand with Indigenous women, lead us to seek knowledge from Indigenous-based reports that include detailed calls to action.

We welcome individuals and partners to join us today, in working together to stop the horrific violation and murders of our sacred woman.

Start the conversation at #IKWEWI_women