Unreserved·Blog

Rosanna Deerchild: Talking to my daughters about the dangers of being an indigenous woman

As a parent, you always want to keep your children safe. You teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, you warn them about stranger danger and to always call if they need you no matter what, when or why. But what if the colour of their skin is what puts them in danger?

National day of action for MMIWG held every October 4

Beverly Jacobs, right to left, Nancy Britian, Sue Martin and Aileen Joseph take part in a national candle light vigil to honour missing or murdered aboriginal women on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday October 4, 2009. (The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand)

As a parent, you always want to keep your children safe. You teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, you warn them about stranger danger and to always call if they need you no matter what, when or why.

But what if the colour of their skin is what puts them in danger? That is the reality for indigenous women and girls in Canada.

According to statistics we are four times more likely to experience violence. We are more likely to be the victim of exploitation and even murder. An RCMP report says 1,181 indigenous women and girls have been killed or are missing in Canada. That number just keeps climbing.

Terrifying reality

For me, as an indigenous woman, that is a scary reality. As a mother with two young girls, it is a terrifying one. 

Instead of talking about shoes and cute boy bands, I have to warn them about slow moving cars and catcalls. Instead of going to Girl Scouts I take my girls to another vigil to mark another death, walk in remembrance at another march and demand another call to action. 

These ceremonies of loss are felt in almost every indigenous family. And when my little girls look up at me and ask, 'But why is it like that Mommy?' Well, I simply have no answer for them.

And when my little girls look up at me and ask, 'But why is it like that Mommy?' Well, I simply have no answer for them.- Rosanna Deerchild

Yet it is a conversation we must have in our families and our communities. It's why every October 4th, a national day of remembrance and action takes place on behalf of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 

Sisters in Spirit

Calling it Sisters in Spirit, the first vigil was held in 2006 on the steps of Parliament Hill. Eleven SIS vigils were held across the country and that number grew to 72 in 2009. This year, more than 200 events across Canada marked this national day.

People across Canada held vigils, marches or simply lit candles or offered a prayer. Along with a wide range of indigenous people and groups others, including human rights' groups and faith communities, continue to call for a national action plan to stop violence against women.

We attend the vigils and light the candles. We walk with our sisters in remembrance. And we demand action again and again in hopes that our daughters will not need to have this conversation with theirs.

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