Dozens of people gathered outside the Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse to honour and remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) during a memorial ceremony and march Friday.
Events similar to the Sault's 13th annual memorial march commemorating MMIWG are being staged across Canada Feb. 14.
Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers, Garden River First Nation Chief Andy Rickard and Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano were among a number of people to address the crowd during Friday’s memorial.
“The story of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a sad and terrible tragedy, and is part of our national history - and without you, and without your leadership, the story would not have been told,” said Provenzano, who used Friday’s memorial to proclaim Feb. 14 a memorial day to acknowledge missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. “It’s a story that we have to continue to tell together every year so that we do not forget - we do not forget what has happened, and what is still happening, and I thank you for that.”
Eva Dabutch, member of the Indigenous Women’s Ant-Violence Task Force, told SooToday that the Sault is an important hub for MMIWG, despite the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls bypassing the city while collecting stories across the country to use in its final report.
“The MMIW march that happens every year is so important for Bawating because we’re often overlooked - the MMIW inquiry report, they went to a lot of the cities to collect those stories of the women who went missing, but failed to come to our community,” said Dabutch. “So it’s often we’re left out of the story, we’re left out of funding.”
“We’re a hub here in Sault Ste. Marie – we have women who went missing, who are murdered, who are trafficked, who are very marginalized, very vulnerable – so it’s very important for somebody to be a voice for them. Often, their voices are not heard.”
While the crowd waited for drum group Bear Creek Singers to perform an honour song, Dabutch told SooToday that the MMIWG memorial march is gaining more and more traction with each passing year.
“I think it’s amazing. Every year, it keeps getting bigger,” she said. “I think it’s really highlighting how people are passionate about this, that they care about this issue, and for all of our leaders to come together to say, ‘we need to work together on this, each of our communities need a plan to stop violence’ is amazing.”
The Indigenous Women’s Ant-Violence Task Force and Missanabie Cree First Nation will be holding a round dance Friday evening at Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront to honour MMIWG2S+ (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Plus) from 7 to 11 p.m.
People are invited to wear ribbon skirts, moccasins and red clothing to the event.
The round dance follows a pipe ceremony and feast scheduled for 6 p.m.
A copy of the national inquiry’s final report on MMIWG can be found on the inquiry’s website.
The following is the proclamation issued by the mayor during Friday’s memorial march:
Whereas the march for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a national annual event meant to raise awareness about the disproportionate number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and;
Whereas this is an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of all genders and ages to gather in solidarity and to remember, honour and grieve those who have passed or those who have gone missing;
And on February 14th, 2020, the people of Bawating and across Canada will participate in a national day of action for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to call for actions to end the violence.
Therefore I, Christian Provenzano, as the mayor of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, proclaim February 14th, 2020 as a memorial day to remember Indigenous women and girls, and encourage all residents of the city of Sault Ste. Marie to support this important national event.