NEWS

SSVotes hub

middle-header-news2

sisters in spirit main

Sabrina Sutherland (left) and Katrina Roote led the Take Back the Night Sisters in Spirit Walk at Saugeen First Nation October 9 in honour and memory of the estimated 1,300 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) in Canada.

Hub Staff

September 5th marked ten years since GC Huston Public School graduate Maisy Odjick and her friend Shannon Alexander went missing from Maniwaki, Quebec at the age of 16.

During the ninth annual Sisters in Spirit, Take Back the Night march October 9 at Saugeen First Nation, 70 people marched in solidarity, including family and friends of Maisy.

Drums were played and prayers and tobacco were placed in a Sacred Fire as an offering to ancestors to ask for the strength and the power to watch over the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW).

The march, which began at the Kabaeshiwim Respite Women's Shelter, brought out Odjick’s former classmate and friend Emily Laur, who is now 27. Laur donned red, signifying the red dress which has become a visual signifier of MMIW.

“I actually never remember hanging out with her inside,” said Laur when asked about her relationship with Odjick. “It was always outside running through the woods, building tree forts, climbing trees and crafting," she said.

Laur noted that at the time GC Huston in Southampton was a small school and everyone who attended was close.

"She's such a sweetheart, would do anything for you and always had the biggest smile on her face," said Laur of Odjick, adding that she lit up a room. "Her smile would make you smile," she said.

"She was an amazing person," added Laur and reminisced about hanging out after school and how Odjick was a staple at her grade school birthday parties.

“She would round up everyone and say, 'Now we're staying for a sleepover because we want to,'" said Laur, adding that it wasn't planned that way. "We had too much fun... so then it turned into a sleepover party and we would set up tents in the backyard," she said.

Laur said it was a heartbreaking time when Odjick went missing and recalled a few years later receiving information from her bank which included a photo of her missing friend on the back. She said seeing her photo brought the heartbreak back and that it was a reminder that her friend was still missing and this was real.

During the ninth annual march, Odjick’s grandmother, Beulah Johnson, raised a poignant red dress as the group marched through the community, making their way from the shelter and along Highway 21 to Saugeen Wesley United Church.

Following drumming by the Saugeen Women’s Hand Drum group and the Men's Drum group, a prayer from Rita Root and greetings from Council representative Letitia Thompson took place and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer Adam Belange of the Bruce Peninsula detachment in Wiarton read a prepared speech.

“The unknown of missing loved ones is filled with so many questions. The act of violence and hate by one person against another is devastating and the negative effects are long-lasting for all those involved,” he read.

Belange went on to say the OPP as an organization takes all information received and investigations involving possible homicides and disappearances very seriously regardless of gender, heritage or race. He then referenced an OPP report, Missing and Unsolved Murdered Indigenous People, which includes information on both Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander.

The report states that of the total 1,542 missing Indigenous people in Ontario as of December 31, 2014, 351 were missing from an OPP jurisdiction and 61 of those were female.

According to the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: 2015 Update to the National Operational Overview report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), fewer homicides of Indigenous women occurred in a residence (66%) when compared to non-Indigenous women (88%). In addition, 17% of homicides of Indigenous women occurred on a street, road or highway compared to 1% of non-Indigenous women.

While the precise number of MMIW in Canada is unknown, many estimates put the number at 1,300. A 2013 RCMP led study revealed that in police-reported incidents across all jurisdictions in the country Indigenous female homicides and unresolved missing Indigenous females totalled 1,181 (164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims).

Lori Kewaquom, Cultural and Wellness Coordinator with Saugeen First Nation asked those in attendance to bring forth thoughts of safety for the community. “We are not a huge community and everybody knows each other," said Kewaquom. "There’s a lot of grief, unresolved grief, that continues to happen and along with the unknowns, where have our loved ones gone," she said.

"There is also the time when the spirit travels and we come together then as a community to help to grieve with the family that is left behind here," Kewaquom continued. "But also we do a ceremony to help that spirit that is making its journey to the spirit world so we have a lot of beautiful ways within," she said.

Kewaquom then welcomed 13 marchers, 12 women and 1 man, to each lay one rose at the foot of the monument in front of Saugeen Wesley United Church, each rose representing 100 of the estimated 1,300 MMIW.

beulah johnson

Holding a red dress, a visual symbol for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW), was Beulah Johnson, grandmother to Maisy Odjick who went missing alongside her friend Shannon Alexander in 2008 when they were 16 years old.

emily laur

Emily Laur held a missing sign for Maisy Odjick. Laur attended GC Huston Public School in Southampton with Maisy and described her as an amazing person and great friend.

walk

Roughly 70 people, many donning red for the occasion, took part in the Take Back the Night Sisters in Spirit Walk at Saugeen First Nation which included prayers and a tobacco ceremony where tobacco was placed in the Sacred Fire as an offering to ancestors to ask for the strength and the power to watch over the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

cfuw southport

Members and a few of their partners from the Southport chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women joined in the walk and ceremony October 9.

women drum

The Saugeen Women’s Hand Drum group played at the Take Back the Night Walk Sisters in Spirit Walk and ceremony October 9 at Saugeen First Nation.

men drum

The Men’s Drum group during ninth annual Take Back the Night Sisters in Spirit event.

100 roses

Thirteen roses were laid in memory of the estimated 1,300 MMIW October 9.

opp

Adam Belange, OPP officer with the Bruce Peninsula detachment in Wiarton, spoke at the ceremony at Wesley United Church at Saugeen First Nation October 9 in honour and memory of MMIW.

news-top

CareyOptical final