Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
In many Indigenous cultures, women have a powerful role as teachers, protectors of the land and water, and bringers of life. Certain teachings belong to women only. Some cultures, such as the Haudenosaunee and the Haida are matrilineal. Haudenosaunee women had significant political power and were in charge of naming the Chief; they could also remove him from his position.
When Europeans came to this land, they began imposing their patriarchal world-view on the First Nations communities and peoples they engaged with. Eventually, this view of male superiority was encoded in the Indian Act, where a woman’s status was derived from her husband rather than from her own personal identity. As governmental benefits were based on status, women whose marriages dissolved, or whose husbands died, were often left without benefits and they were also unable to move back home to receive support from their families.
This lack of benefits and support, along with a pattern of hyper-sexualization and dehumanization of Indigenous women in the mainstream media have resulted in an increased vulnerability. Today, while still powerful and strong, Indigenous women and girls are more vulnerable to violence from people outside their communities as well as from people within them.
In 2006, after conducting research into the statistical data available on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) found that there were “more than 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in this country”.
In 2013, the RCMP released its own report into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which found that there were 1,181 “incidents of Aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing Aboriginal females”. This report also states that “the total indicates that Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women”.
On December 8th, 2015 the Canadian Government announced that there would be a national inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Named the ‘National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’, the Inquiry has a broad mandate of investigating and understanding the underlying causes of the vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls which contribute to a wide range of violent acts perpetrated against them. With this in mind, the Inquiry explores not only the missing and murdered, but also “issues such as sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, bullying and harassment, suicide, and self-harm.”
Between May of 2017 and April of 2018, the National Inquiry held 15 community hearings across the country. During these hearings, community members were invited to speak about their personal experiences, and share their thoughts on what can be done to fix the situation. The hearings were looking for ideas about how to keep Indigenous women and girls safe, how to help heal communities, and how to move forward on a path towards reconciliation. On November 1, 2017, the National Inquiry released its interim report which outlined its process to- date and included some preliminary immediate calls for action.
The National Inquiry has continued holding hearings with Knowledge Keepers, experts, and institutions. In addition, they have an open call for artistic expressions with the hope that the resulting art will help to educate Canadians about the issue at hand and help to communicate the emotions connected to losing a loved one in this way.
While there have been issues and controversy with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the fact remains that it has begun and created a platform for discussions in Canada about the shocking statistics surrounding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In addition, there have been many pieces of artwork and social justice campaigns that create awareness around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls within mainstream media. Below, you will find links to some of the projects and art pieces that have taken on the subject in an attempt to build awareness and assist with healing.
- Faceless Dolls Project
- Walking With Our Sisters
- The REDress Project
- Beaded hearts project
- N’we Jinan, “The Highway”
In collaboration with school and community partners, Webequie First Nation, Kahnawake, and Seven Generations High School, we have created a variety of resource kits that help teachers discuss Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in the classroom with their students. These resource kits broach this important subject and explore the movements that bring awareness of this nationwide crisis. They also encourage students to take a stand by creating their own art, taking part in or beginning their own campaign, or writing a letter to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
You can find other examples of Learning Bird resources dealing with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by performing a keyword search for ‘missing and murdered’.
The following resources will help you learn more about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. They can also provide you with ideas for integrating themes of violence and social justice connected to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls into your teaching.
- Their Voices Will Guide Us – Student Engagement Guide by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Honouring Indigenous Women, Girls, and Gender Diverse People – Educational resource to help restore honour and respect to Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people by the Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database
- No More Stolen Sisters – Amnesty International campaign
Have you discussed Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls or violence against Indigenous women with your class? If so, tell us which resources have you found helpful.