The Missing and Murdered in Canada; Northwords reflections

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Friends, of course there is much to celebrate on yet another National Indigenous Peoples Day, with so many other countries not even making an attempt to recognize its first citizens.

Yet the fact remains that we as Canadians for the most part are living in a kind of denial.
The matter of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has just now recently reared its ugly head again, with the report of the national inquiry now in the hands of our leaders.
Only a few years ago, though, former PM Harper publicly and callously stated that the issue was ‘just not very high on our radar’, so we have come a long way to at least help address the issue.

Were it more than 1400 white women gone missing (much less murdered) this would certainly be termed a social disaster, an epidemic worthy of all our time and attention.
The fact remains that these are Indigenous women, so most people are still led to believe it to be a police matter.

For the time being Prime Minister Trudeau has at the very least gone as far as terming this a ‘genocide’, which is a start.

For my own part, as a Dene writer and scholar I continue to regard this as a part of our cultural genocide, a grim continuation of inter-generational residential school trauma.
This all began at about the same time Canada itself was born, in the late 1800’s.

Since then some 150,000 Indigenous children were officially kidnapped and submitted to a foreign culture and language, many dying on the way. In an outright attempt at assimilation, to paint little brown children white, families and relatives were cruelly separated.

Now we have the duty to recognize the problem for what it is- genocide- and take whatever steps we need to ensure that our women feel safe on Canadian streets.

Northwords Writers Festival
It was good to have had the too-rare chance of rubbing shoulders and pens with the likes of other writers from the North and abroad at the Northwords Writers Festival, May 30 to June 2.

This one event, now well over a decade in the doing, thanks to the likes of Fran Hurcomb and her crew, saw to such comfort a lonesome scribe would yearn.

Too, very much present throughout were the likes of Judith Drinnan of the Book Cellar, who continue to make every effort to feature our collective northern voices.

As a recently published author myself I had the pleasure of sitting in on a number of panels, to talk up the details of life in the Write Lane.

Among any number of others who greatly impressed one and all with their prowess in written form, was former CBC luminaire, Whit Fraser. His book True North Rising even gleaned long-awaited honours.

Much on his and another, Richard Van Camp’s mind, was the time when the North truly shone, through the light of a looming pipeline over disputed lands, back in the early Seventies.

For the youth, many struggling to make sense of today’s chaotic world, certain names are featured in the communicator’s volume, like Dene announcer Joe Tobie of Somba K’e, Yellowknife. As Fraser contends the Dene announcers’ time also extended into when you needed to know a number of languages, in his case Tlicho, Chipewyan, northern Dene and even Cree, to converse.

Others are Inuit leaders Mary Simon, John Amagoalik, Tagak Curley and Charlie Watt.
Then there are our own heroes, like Stephen Kakfwi, once even Premier of the NWT.

Other writers at the Northwords Writers Festival who have chosen to highlight our own historical figures, like the renown Van Camp, even make great personal efforts to support the youth. He read hilarious excerpt from Moccasin Square Gardens, about a ‘panic attack’, after having run out of weed and taking the grandparents to Yellowknife from Behchoko and getting the elders inadvertently stoned on the way!

One other who greatly impressed me, to the point of actually laying down a dollar to purchase, were award-winning gay poet/activist, Alberta’s Billy Ray Belcourt.

I have also added Iceland’s own W.D. Valgardson’s In Valhallah’s Shadow to my growing library, now less crowded of more academic fare for my Indigenous PhD Studies.
Too, gifts of two poetic works of California’s Caroline Goodwin round off the edges nicely.

For it all, I would encourage more people to do the like, add to your collection of readables, if only to pass the coming long Midnight Sunny Hours.
Mahsi, thank you.

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