Written by: Gurpreet Kambo, News Editor
Photos: Chris Ho, Photo Editor
The First Nations Student Association (FNSA) hosted the third annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness (MMIW) week from February 10 to 13. The event included a vigil display in the Saywell atrium throughout the whole week with photos in remembrance of Indigenous persons who were lost, as well as poetry, flowers and a sign stating “No more stolen sisters, no more stolen youth.”
On February 13, the Saywell atrium was the site of a performance by the FNSA Drum Group. From 1–2 p.m., the group drummed and sang songs in remembrance of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, interspersed with speakers who spoke passionately about the reasons why this event was held.
In an email interview with The Peak, Amelia Boissoneau, an FNSA member and Indigenous Business student, said, “The MMIW vigil is not an easy event to hold. It brings up a lot of heavy feelings knowing that our mothers, sisters, daughters are missing or murdered. My involvement was done through supporting my friends who were directly involved in setting up the space. Our Indigenous community focuses on supporting one another in the best way possible.”
FNSA Board member Matt told The Peak, “We started organizing it because we wanted to bring more awareness on campus, so that people [ . . . ] would be able to go down to the memorial march happening on the Downtown Eastside every February 14 at Main and Hastings.
Matt emphasized that violence against Indigenous peoples is deeply rooted in Canada’s history.
“This isn’t just something that’s recently been happening. This has been happening since colonialism has been present here [ . . . ] Since first contact, Indigenous women, youth [and] men, have been taken from us. Since contact.”
Boissoneau added, “I have no choice on whether I am involved or not. The MMIW vigil at SFU isn’t just an annual event for me. I don’t have the privilege of seeing it as an event I have to live through it. It is my responsibility to honour those who have been murdered or gone missing. To support and uplift my relations who have been directly affected.”
She continued, “What was to be addressed is that it isn’t just an event week to honour those lost in the past, this is still happening right now. In this moment women are being murdered and going missing. MMIW needs to have awareness brought upon it every day.”
One of the drum group performers, Jakob, spoke to The Peak about being involved with the FNSA Drum Group.
“We found that teaching Powwow songs and that style of drumming is a really good gateway to get people to come out [ . . . ] the songs we sang today were all Powwow songs,” Jakob said. “We sang an honour song by Sechaskooch, we sang women’s traditional songs by Omaha White Tail [singers], and another by Earl Bullhead. And a drum song [ . . . ] was taught to us by Irvin Waskewitch — which is part of the protocol for carrying our big drum: we sing to honour it, along with offering tobacco. We closed with a flag song by Kenny Merrick Jr from Mystic River.”
Jakob added, “We didn’t feel like it was the most appropriate place to sing a memorial song because that wasn’t necessarily the purpose of the event [ . . . ] We just wanted to sing songs that were honour songs and honoured women, that were intertribal, that anybody would be able to appropriately sit and learn.”
Boissoneau also discussed why this is an issue that everyone should be concerned about, not just Indigenous people, “From the little time we had at the event I hope [people] could understand and realize this isn’t a racial issue. It is a human issue and that everyone should care because we are all human. I hope the vigil brought a new perspective., along with the understanding of our culture through drumming, singing, and speaking.”