Oct. 4, the National Day of Remembrance for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People, was marked in Whitehorse with a silent march along the banks of the Yukon River. The Sisters In Spirit march was organized by the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council.
It began with speeches beneath the waterfront’s Finding Peace monument in Rotary Park. The speaking was led by organizer Christine Genier who told the crowd of her mix of negative emotions — fear, anger and frustration in the face of the women and girls who have died violently or simply disappeared. She said at least some of those feelings gave way to gratitude for the presence of the more than 100 participants in the march.
Amanda Leas, chief of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, was the next to speak.
“I do just want to make this statement as a mother and a daughter, a sister, a cousin and a friend. If I were ever to go missing, it’s not because I wanted to. I would never ever just walk away,” Leas said.
“It is fitting that we start our journey this morning at the Finding Peace monument, as it serves as a reminder of too many lives that have been lost. It honours the victims and their families. Today, we walk together in solidarity and in honour of our loved ones. Today, we honour the strength and resiliency of Indigenous women, girls, children, and the two-spirited people in our community and across Canada.”
Speeches in solidarity were also given by Laura Cabott, the mayor of Whitehorse, and MLA Jeanie McLean.
“It was daunting for me to get ready to come for another vigil. As a Tahltan woman, as a leader, it was hard to get ready to come and stand again and talk about the tragedy in our country, in our communities, in our territory. It was really hard to get ready and do it again,” McLean said.
Despite the difficulty she said it is the example set by elders and others who have been showing up and doing the work to limit the tragedy for decades that keeps her going. The MLA came armed with grim statistics that speak to the scope of the problem: She said Indigenous women in Canada are six times as likely to be murdered as non-Indigenous women and women in Canada’s northern territories experience violence at three times the rate that they do in the south.
Following the prayers, drumming and speeches, the march proceeded to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre where a sacred fire awaited. The march was led by family members of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls.
At the cultural centre, the crowd heard from Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Adeline Webber, the chair of the Yukon Council’s Residential School Burial Sites Committee.
Sherri West, who was among the family of the missing or murdered women and girls who led the march, also spoke. West offered powerful words about the importance of reaching out for help when needed and of the community making themselves available to those in need.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com