Last year, I showed a class the short version of the poem “To the Indigenous Woman” by Ryan Red Corn. The combination of the words and the background music when hearing the poem sends shivers down my spine and nausea to my gut. It’s one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever heard.
Imagine my disgust when I was told my colleagues that some of the students in the class were talking in the halls about how the Indigenous women in the poem “deserved it.” They deserved to be beaten, raped, and killed; they deserved violence. They deserve to be treated with violence because they are Indigenous.
Those students were saying that my friends, colleagues, and mentors–women who I’ve learned so much from and with; women I admire greatly for their strength and compassion–deserve pain and death.
Every time I think about those words I want to be sick. It’s been a year, but I don’t think I will ever or can ever get over it. As much violence as I have faced as a white woman, I will never, ever, know that kind of violence.
The RCMP has reported that nearly 1200 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing and/or were murdered, and yet the Canadian government has ignored the need for a national inquiry (though two ministers have just agreed to attend a round table). The public, however, has demonstrated that bringing awareness to the issue is important. The Moosehide Campaign–started in 2011 by Paul and Raven Lacerte–focuses on what Indigenous and settler men can do to end violence against women and children. The Walking With Our Sisters exhibit, opening in Edmonton in 2013, has venues booked until 2018. This year, a national fast has been organized for February 12th in support of ending violence in Indigenous communities. Lastly, (a few days before or) on Valentine’s Day every year for the past several years, major cities have a march in honour of Indigenous Women.
I feel there is nothing left for me to do or to say, so I leave you with this:
Tell me you have daughters
Tell me you don’t want this for them
Tell me you won’t joke about this with your friends
Tell me you won’t forget we talked
Tell me you will do something
Do something. (Red Corn, 83-88)