Nika Young, from left, Cheyenne Silverfox, and Hannah Silverfox-Belcher shout chants with the crowd as they march to denounce violence against Indigenous women and girls during a rally in Whitehorse on June 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Dozens march in Watson Lake, Whitehorse, to condemn violence against Indigenous women

The marches took place the afternoon of June 23, with about 120 people showing up in Watson Lake

Dozens of people gathered in Watson Lake and Whitehorse the afternoon of June 23 for marches to denounce violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Margaret Charlie, the organizer of the Watson Lake march and an advocate for Kaska women and girls, said in a phone interview that she was moved to take action after a “pretty violent” incident in her community about two weeks ago, where a young woman was beaten by a man out on bail.

The woman, she said, had been previously assaulted by the same person but the man has not faced repercussions.

“The justice system failed our people, so that’s the reason why I did that, on behalf of our women’s safety,” Charlie said of organizing the march.

She added that the community has seen an increase in violence, as well as alcohol and drug abuse, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The reason why I did this is because we have to start standing, we have to say, ‘No more violence in the community…’ I have two young granddaughters and I’m doing that for my granddaughters and those ones who are so in the closet and too scared to come out — we are here for them.”

The Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society also hosted an associated vigil at the Wye Lake cabin on June 18.

Charlie said about 120 Watson Lakers attended the march that travelled from Tag’s to Watson Lake Foods and back.

Watson Lake resident Brandy Tizya told the News over the phone that participating in the march made her feel “empowered and strong and brave,” particularly because many young women and people from “all walks of life” also came out.

She added that she has two young daughters, ages 8 and 11, who are growing up “very fast.”

“I did this walk today to show them … how important (it is) to protect and respect our women, and I want to help them grow up in a healthy environment with no fear of being abused,” Tizya said. “And I hope and pray we reach out to those that are suffering in silence and break the trauma and to surround all the individuals who are suffering, to support them on their healing journey.”

In Whitehorse, a few dozen people gathered at the healing totem pole downtown to walk along Front Street and down to Rotary Park in support of the march in Watson Lake.

Ta’an Kwäch’än Council elder Shirley Adamson gave opening remarks before the march and dedicated her words to Tracey White, a Whitehorse woman who died earlier this month and whom Adamson said “did so much to advance the strength and the support of Aboriginal women, of culture, and of women generally.”

“Violence against women is not a new thing,” Adamson said. “Violence against women is captured in so many different ways and we see it, we read it about it. When it seems like the norm, we develop an apathy to that kind of behaviour… Aboriginal women, we face violence every day. It may not be a backhand across our face, it may a backhand across our emotions, and it all hurts, it all hurts equally.”

Violence against Indigenous women, she continued, is a learned behaviour, one that she traced back to the introduction of the Indian Act. The act, she explained, all but erased the critical roles of Indigenous women, taking power away from matriarchs and handing it over to men instead.

“You’re led to believe women are of no value and Aboriginal women in particular are not even people,” Adamson said. “Then you begin to see how easy it is to strike them, to beat them, to verbally abuse them… It’s ugly, and it needs to be held up so that we can see the ugliness of our souls for either targeting people like that and being an aggressor or standing by and doing and saying nothing.”

Nika Young, who attended the Whitehorse march along with two of her cousins, said it was particularly important for her to participate because her cousin, Cynthia Blackjack was “murdered by the system.”

Blackjack, a Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation citizen, died in 2013 while being medevaced from Carmacks to Whitehorse. A coroner’s inquest earlier this year found that her death was an accident but made several recommendations on improving health care access and providing better cultural training for healthcare providers in the community.

“We are just here to say, you know, stop the violence against women and we’re not next and that it needs to stop, there needs to be a change and we’re going to make the change,” Young said.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

MMIWG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read