Remembering aboriginal women who’ve been stolen away

For 37 years Gretta Thorlakson has wondered how her sister died. At the age of 14, Barbara Jean Jack went missing from a group home in Whitehorse. A year later her remains were found on Grey Mountain.

For 37 years Gretta Thorlakson has wondered how her sister died.

At the age of 14, Barbara Jean Jack went missing from a group home in Whitehorse.

A year later her remains were found on Grey Mountain.

“Nobody knows how she died,” said Thorlakson who attended Monday’s march and vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Jack is one of nearly 600 First Nation women in Canada who’ve been killed or have disappeared without a trace.

Thorlakson believes society’s attitudes towards aboriginal women haven’t changed much since her sister’s body was found in 1973.

They’re just as vulnerable.

Aboriginal women are more likely to experience violence than Caucasian women, according to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the group that organized the Canada-wide vigil.

And if a First Nation woman has been murdered, the perpetrator is less likely to be convicted.

Forty-seven per cent of homicide cases involving aboriginal women go unsolved, compared to the national average of 15 per cent.

“Native women in particular have largely been ignored when they’ve gone missing or been murdered,” said Elijah Buffalo who was one of the few male faces in the 100-person crowd Monday at the Yukon government building.

And if the attackers are caught they are often given lighter sentences, he said.

Buffalo attended the vigil, in part, because of an aunt of his in Alberta who was murdered.

What person doesn’t know a woman who has been affected by violence? said Kaushee’s Place director Barbara McInerney while marching with her daughter Erin Pauls.

“It’s really important to put faces to names and realize how many women have been affected by violence.”

The native women’s association is trying to do just that.

Last year they started a campaign to dig up the stories of aboriginal women in Canada who have gone missing or been murdered.

Courtney Wheelton, who represents the Sisters in Spirit initiative in the Yukon, has already unearthed 22 names of women who have gone missing or been murdered in the territory.

And she thinks there may be more.

Over the year, Wheelton will anthologize their stories to create a picture of who they were.

Most of these women’s deaths were never reported in the media.

“It’s good to remember,” said Wendy Carlick, whose daughter Angel went missing in 2007 days before her high school graduation.

“It keeps you stronger and keeps you smiling,” she said in a previous interview with the News.

Angel’s body’s was found in the Pilot Mountain area six months after she went missing. To this day her case has never been solved.

At the vigil on Monday, Carlick was surrounded by friends and family who were there to support her.

Many of them wore signs that read, “Justice for Angel.”

People who have any information regarding missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Yukon or would like more information regarding the Yukon Sisters in Spirit project can contact Courtney Wheelton at the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council at 667-6162 or at ysis@northwestel.net.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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