Teens road trip to Yellowknife to hear MMIWG testimonies

Four girls travelled from Fort Providence, N.W.T., to Yellowknife with their school counsellor to listen to testimonies at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

'It makes it real,' says school counsellor who drove 4 girls to the MMIWG hearings in Yellowknife

Teens Amber Gargan, Shanita Landry, Kate Brule and Bailey Gargan travelled to Yellowknife from Fort Providence with Beverly Hope to hear the stories told at the national inquiry hearings into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Chateau Nova hotel in Yellowknife. (Lawrence Nayally/CBC)

It wasn't a typical teenage road trip.

On Wednesday, four girls hopped into their school counsellor's vehicle. They travelled from Fort Providence, N.W.T., to Yellowknife to attend the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

For Beverly Hope, it was important for Amber Gargan, Shanita Landry, Kate Brule and Bailey Gargan to hear the stories in person. 

"We have an opportunity to show them the reality and for them to hear testimony from their own people," she said.

I see women with bruises ... I don't like those marks on them.- Amber Gargan

"It makes it real. It's not just something that's happening down south, like this happens in our community."

Hope said the experience might help the girls make positive choices — and know what to do if they are ever in danger.

Girls want to bring joy back to community

In testimonies at the inquiry, some addressed people who turn a blind eye to violence against Indigenous women and girls.

On Thursday, the girls said they've witnessed violence in their own community. 

"I see women with bruises and that makes me feel bad, like I don't like those marks on them," Gargan said, adding she's also seen people who won't help others. 

"They would just let it be and probably just walk away," she said.

"Aren't you supposed to help people from your culture?"

Brule said that for some, "it's just a normal thing" to witness.

The beaded heart tapestry hung at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife. (CBC)

The girls said they have talked about what to do if they see something.

"We shouldn't just walk away. We should just tell that person to stop doing that because probably that person you're abusing doesn't want to be hurt," Gargan said. 

They said they want to bring "joy and gather together as a community" when they go back to Fort Providence.

"To inspire people, and more people, to open up or to take a stand for those women who are being abused or being hurt," Brule said. 

'I have overcome,' Hope says

Hope said the opportunity to hear stories of how people have overcome trauma is more powerful than education what can come from a book.

Hope shared stories about her own life to help them understand on the three and a half hour trip.

Her life hasn't always been "rose petals," said Hope.

"I've been through violence. I have lived through sexual abuse."

"We have a lot of strong Dene women who can teach us as well as these young ladies can teach them."- Beverly Hope 

"I have overcome addictions and obstacles in my life with hard work — with education and with a constant presence to be willing to change."

Hope said that if the girls wanted, she would facilitate a meeting group back in Fort Providence for them and other women in the community. 

"We have a lot of strong Dene women who can teach us as well as these young ladies can teach them."

On the way to Yellowknife, Hope said the group also talked about stereotypes Indigenous women face. 

"Lots of times we're viewed as drunks and alcoholics and drugs addicts," she said. 

Hope asked the girls what those meant to them. 

"They are not going to fall into that stereotype. They are not going to be unaware."

More from MMIWG Yellowknife:

With files from Lawrence Nayally