Idle No More not Responsible for Violence in Thunder Bay

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Joyce Hunter Speaking at Idle No More Fort William First Nation
Joyce Hunter Speaking at Idle No More Fort William First Nation
Photo By:Nathan Ogden

THUNDER BAY – Op-Ed –  As soon as the men’s voices lifted up to the the sky to carry our prayers for the women I completely lost it and started to cry, and I could not stop. Our elder Sam looked over at me and asked me what was wrong and I told him ‘my eyes are broken’ and I gave him a watery smile and he smiled back at me knowing I wasn’t ready to speak about what was bothering me and he let it go.

Idle No More not Responsible for Violence

The truth is: I was asked by two reporters who showed up and one that I had talked to on the phone if I, as an Idle No More organizer, felt somehow responsible for this act of violence that was committed against this woman. And that question invaded my mind like a seedy and angry stranger trying to cast blame and it bothered me.

The truth is, I know that we cannot control what other people teach their children, and that there are individuals who are motivated by hate and resentment and darkness and a burning need to oppress.

There are many of us who cannot fathom what would possess someone to raise their child to become someone who shouts racial slurs at a lone woman walking along the side of the street, to throw objects at her, rush at her, grab her by the hair, abduct her and take her to an obscure out of the way wooded area to beat, assault and humiliate her, and then try to kill her.

But it happened.

It happened to her and it happened to more than 600 other women in different parts of this country over many years, their circumstances might have been slightly different, but their end result was the same, they ended up dead and their killers all, very likely, still walking free as their cases are still open, unsolved files ‘cold cases’. The injustice of it all is sickening.

[sws_pullquote_left] Our elder Sam looked over at me and asked me what was wrong and I told him ‘my eyes are broken’ and I gave him a watery smile and he smiled back at me knowing I wasn’t ready to speak about what was bothering me and he let it go” [/sws_pullquote_left]

One of the men, a drummer, stood because he felt a need to say his piece and he said something that really struck me. He said, what happened to this woman can be compared to Mother Earth. She is being pillaged and assaulted and we have to protect them.

These kinds of things can no longer continue.

Women hold a very sacred place in our society as they carry us in their womb, give us life, nurse us when we are sick and hold and comfort us when we cry. The health and well-being of our communities depends on the health and well-being of our mothers – including Mother Earth.

We have a duty and an obligation to protect them. It was with a heavy heart that I lit my candle for all those women because I know that the violence or the deaths they experienced were the results of senseless acts of hate and rage, but what I witnessed in that room during the vigil was as potent as it was powerful and it renewed my sense of hope for the future: many men and women had come in a spirit of love and respect to honour these women and I was glad to have had the honour to sit with them through it.

The pipes were smoked, the drums rendered their songs of healing, hope and prayer and the women danced the sacred jingle dress healing dance. A gift for the victim of the recent attack was also put together which included a bundle of the four sacred medicines and a hand-made blanket depicting the colours of her dodem.

I hope things will change for the better.

With respect to Idle No More, we will continue to carry our message forward that we can no longer and will no longer accept legislation that is designed to oppress and destroy our people as well as our connections to our lands.

We will no longer accept that we are told through policies and legislation that we not good enough to live happy and healthy lives based on a relationship of respect and equality. We demand no less.

Yes we were reminded just days ago that racism and oppression are still very much alive, but that will not stop us from loving and valuing each other enough to keep standing up for one another in our bid to assume our place as was promised and agreed to when the treaties were signed.

We will continue to Idle No More.

Joyce Hunter

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