The Current

'I understood...because I was one of them.' Sheila North Wilson on creating #MMIW

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson created the hashtag #MMIW to amplify the grassroots activism being done on the issue to a national level. This is part of The Current's public forum on policing MMIW cases.
Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), says the hashtag #MMIW was a way to put discuss the issue on a larger platform. (CBC)

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*This is a special edition of The Current from Winnipeg where the show hosted a public forum on ​the issue of policing when it comes to missing and murdered Indigenous women.*

In 2012, Sheila North Wilson, coined the hashtag #MMIW.

At the time the former CTV Winnipeg journalist was also working for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. After noticing the growing gatherings of mostly women and girls supporting each other and talking about their missing and murdered loved ones, she felt compelled to tell their stories. 
Sheila North Wilson is the Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a political advocacy organization representing more than 30 northern First Nations. She is the first woman to hold the position. (Krista Anderson)

"I understood exactly what the families were saying and I understood what the friends of victims and survivors were saying because I was one of them." 

According to North Wilson, these grassroots level conversations grew to a national level as advocates got stronger, smarter and more relentless.

Currently serving as Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, a political advocacy organization representing more than 30 northern First Nations, and the first ever woman to hold the position, she remembers a time when these conversations were hard to have with the men in Indigenous communities.

I think at the time some of the women chiefs were being told that this is a woman's issue go take care of it outside of the circle. But I don't think they would dare to say that now.- Sheila North Wilson, Grand Chief of the Manitoba  Keewatinowi   Okimakanak

For North Wilson, the choice of the four letters that make up the hashtag were purposeful, especially the "I."

"Once I learned the difference what Indigenous and Aboriginal meant I couldn't use Aboriginal anymore," she explains.

"Indigenous places us in this country and gives place to who we are to this country," she adds.

"We are from this land. We are the people of this land." - Sheila North Wilson, Grand Chief of the Manitoba  Keewatinowi   Okimakanak

"It means more than the word Aboriginal because Aboriginal is more legislated in and produced by the government in that language."

"So it doesn't give honour and place to people that are coming from this country."

Listen to the conversation at the top of this post.

Our Winnipeg public forum was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch, Cathy Simon, Kathleen Goldhar and Winnipeg network producer Suzanne Dufresne.