'I think we're always moving forward': Erica Violet Lee sees strength in Indigenous communities

"People trap Indigenous people in the past," says Erica Violet Lee. "They think we're doomed to go extinct." But she sees it differently.
"I think we're stronger than we have been in a long time," says Erica Violet Lee, a Cree activist who's been working alongside the Boushie/Baptiste family. (Sweetmoon Photography)
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Last summer Cree activist Erica Violet Lee attended a ceremony and feast arranged by Colten Boushie's family.

The gathering brought the community together to "remember Colten" and to "strengthen us" for the upcoming trial, explained Lee.

"After the feast we realized this family is taking care of everyone in their community right now," she said. "And we need to take care of them, as well. So we figured that just a bit of financial support would go a long way."

It shouldn't just be Indigenous people alone fighting this.- Erica Violet Lee

Lee has been working alongside the Boushie/Baptiste family and she helped start a GoFundMe campaign on their behalf. The fundraising campaign has surpassed Lee's expectations and continues to receive donations.

"It's really inspiring to wake up every morning and see the number going up, mostly because I know it's smaller donations — it's people who have $5 and $10 dollars to spare, not thousands of dollars," explained Lee.

"It's sort of the way Cree communities work where we're taking care of each other the best we can, with the little that we have."

Screenshot of 'Justice for Colten Boushie' GoFundMe campaign. "I want people talking about the way that Canada often values property over Indigenous lives," said Erica Violet Lee.

Lee has witnessed settler solidarity since Gerald Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie.

"But I want more settler allies out here with us saying the things that need to be said," stated Lee.

"I know many of us from Saskatchewan are trying our best to take up some of the work because it shouldn't just be the [Boushie/Baptiste] family alone right now," said Lee. "It shouldn't just be Indigenous people alone fighting this."

"I want people talking about the way that Canada often values property over Indigenous lives," explained Lee.

For Lee, expressing sadness and anger is part of what moving forward looks like.

"Going forward is being able to get out of bed without feeling so heavy every single day because we're mourning someone else lost in our communities."

"People trap Indigenous people in the past," Lee said.

"They think we're doomed to go extinct. And obviously we're proving them wrong because I think we're stronger than we have been in a long time."

"I think we're always moving forward."