Every year on October 4th across Canada, Indigenous peoples and their allies come together to remember and honour missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. In solidarity, the TCSA and TUNA (Trent University Native Association) came together to chalk the hundreds of names of the missing and murdered onto the Faryon Bridge.
Volunteers and organizers began to set up at 8:30 that morning, providing students wishing to take part with free coffee, hot chocolate as well as a box of chalk and over 860 names to chalk down. In a general social survey conducted by Statistics Canada, it was reported that “Aboriginal women 15 years and older are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women.”
Statistics Canada also found that Indigenous women were incomparably overrepresented as homicide victims, with rates between 1997 and 2000 being seven times higher than that of non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women are also targeted three times more than non-Indigenous women by a person they do not know. This means that life as an Indigenous woman is often dangerous, and leaving your home can also mean a death sentence.
A national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people was only initiated this year despite Indigenous activists demanding one for decades. To create awareness, Native Women’s Association of Canada started conducting Sisters in Spirit Vigils in 2006, with only 11 vigils originally taking place, the number has now grown to 216. Each year Trent students have come together to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. Whether it was TUNA participating in the remembrance walk last year to Confederation Park or FPHL (First Peoples House of Learning) drumming across the bridge, women are being remembered. This year was no different, with entire classes coming out to the bridge that Tuesday morning to write the names listed—like Priscilla Horse, 15, who went missing in Saskatchewan in 1997.
Another name added to the bridge was Viola Panacheese, a woman from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, who went missing during the summer of 1991. The support shown by the Trent community was heart-warming and inspiring. Even if students were on their way to class, they stopped, listened to our stories and took the time honour at least one name. Some students finished entire sheets, while others informed their classmates about the vigil and were able to get the class out to show support. This show of love from the Trent community made me feel a little bit safer as an Indigenous woman on campus.
For many Indigenous peoples in Canada, the list of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people has the name of a friend, sister, daughter, grandmother, niece or cousin. Each name representing a family member that they will never get to meet but will always remember, or someone they will forever be searching for. October 4th is not only a day of sadness but also a day of love, to remember the faces and names of loved ones, and on that day Trent students helped to make that possible.