By: Cecile Favron, Peak Associate 

SFU students and community members turned out in large numbers for a march to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on February 9.

The second-annual event brought together dozens of people to march in the Academic Quadrangle and Convocation Mall to remember the estimated 4,000 Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada.

“I instantly got so emotional,” said Maddi, a member of the First Nations Student Association and organizer of the march. “It was just crazy, there are no words for it. I couldn’t believe how many people came and it felt really good.”

The march was part of a week-long vigil held on campus to honour Indigenous women and girls and included student participants and some of the organizers of the Women’s Memorial March which takes place in the Downtown Eastside every February 14.

“That is probably the most support I’ve seen for anything in a long time,” explained Matt, another event organizer with the First Nations Student Association. “Having other people that aren’t even part of the campus be a part of it, that really means a lot to me.”

The increased turnout at the campus march this year can likely be attributed to a growing awareness in the community, according to Maddi.

“I think people are just waking up more to the issues and becoming more aware of what’s going on, especially since a lot of it happens in Vancouver.” – Maddi, First Nations Student Association

Indigenous women and girls make up approximately 4% of the population but represent nearly a quarter of all homicide victims, according to Statistics Canada.

“This is an epidemic that has been going on since contact, the issue with Indigenous women going missing,” Matt explained.

 

Missing prayer ties

The vigil included pieces of coloured cloth called prayer ties placed around campus as a form of offering to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. However, to the dismay of the organizers, many of the ties went missing during the week.

“It was really frustrating,” Maddi said. “For me, I really just think of it as a really perfect example of how ignorant the society still is, especially at this school.”

It was troubling for the volunteers who took the time to put up the broadcloth ties only find a large portion of them taken down overnight. The organizers faced the same problem with people taking the ties during the vigil last year.

“People need to be more aware and respectful of some of these things,” Matt said. “The thing that bugs me the most is not the fact that they were taken down, but that I don’t know where they are, or who took them, or for what purpose.”

The remaining ties were collected and brought home following the march.

 

An empowering event

The march culminated in a moment of silence for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The event also represented an opportunity to show support for the women on campus and for women to take on a leadership role.

Matt recounted how the spirit of the event inspired him to lend his drum to another member of the campus community to lead the march.

“I gave her my drum because she should be up there singing and drumming,” Matt said. “I put her ahead of me.”

“When we get to have these women and these voices — I just feel like it is more empowering,” he added. “It was really awesome to see them leading where we’re going with the songs and the drums.”

Maddi explained that the issue of violence against Indigenous women is something that people are hesitant to address and said that the march was inspiring.

“I feel that this is an issue that needs to be brought up constantly,” Maddi said. “It is an ongoing issue.”  

 

Full names were not published at the request of the interviewees.