What does @WWOS1 and living/working northern Alberta have in common for me? #MMIW #MMIWG2S

As I am sitting here and writing this, I am currently living and working in a northern Alberta community. A northern Cree community. Treaty 8 territory. It is beautiful territory. I wish everyone could experience these communities for their beauty, their history, and their love for one another, love for the community, and love for the land.

I just tweeted out that I wanted to blog. So, here I am: blogging. I haven’t done so in a long time. It was frustrating to me that I couldn’t do what I loved most: writing and sharing…story telling.

Three summers ago, I was living and working in the more northern part of Alberta. I was living and working Chateh, Alberta.[1] It was my first summer in Alberta—let alone northern Alberta. I still have fond memories of the area. This evening, however, some memories were triggered from earlier this year and from 2013.

The summer program I am working for is called Alberta’s Future Leader.[2] I am living and working in Sucker Creek First Nation. The community, as mentioned, is beautiful! Though like Chateh, the mosquitos are a little challenging 😉

This evening I was scrolling along my Facebook feed and trying to see what is up with my family and friends back home and from other places in the world. I noticed someone posting the vamps made for the children who have gone missing or who have died in residential schools and through other on-going colonial tactics/policies to “get rid of the Indian problem” (like the forced removal of children from their homes/communities). The creators of these vamps were submitted to the Walking With Our Sisters commemorative art installation.[3] Taken directly from the WWOS site:

“Walking With Our Sisters is a commemorative art installation to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous Women of Canada and the United States; to acknowledge the grief and torment families of these women continue to suffer; and to raise awareness of this issue and create opportunity for broad community-based dialogue on the issue.”

I remember when the call for vamps first went out. I even remember the suggested “deadline” to submit vamps. I remember this date because I thought it would be a nice art project for the youth we working with that summer to submit some vamps to WWOS.[4] Then, I thought it would be nice to just submit one myself. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to submit any vamps because of the deadline. All I remember was having these sad emotions about not being able to submit anything, even if just by myself.

Earlier this year, I remember seeing a posting for a youth that was reported missing. She was only about fifteen to sixteen years old. She was last seen walking from Bushe River and supposedly walking to High Level. The distance between the two communities? Approximately 5 kms. I remember seeing this youth’s poster because I was looking at it for quite some time. I wondered if the youth in the post was one of the youth I had worked with in 2013. Maybe she had moved from Chateh into Bushe? Maybe she had cut her hair? Maybe she had dyed her hair? I studied the picture closely. I couldn’t remember. The poster still broke my heart. The distance between Bushe and High Level is not that far. Yet, there is a lot of traffic, including many truckers and transports (semis) that travel through to the north/south. My mind wondered a bit about what might have happened. I tried to think of the best, which isn’t exactly the best in these situations. Maybe she wasn’t picked up? Maybe she walked to a friend’s house? Maybe she forgot to check in? Selfishly, I thought to myself, “I don’t want this to become real.” But for a family and friends, having their loved one go missing or be found murdered is all too real.

When I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and as I saw these children vamps, I cried—my heart is too broken to break anymore.

The vamps were still being made and not just for missing or murdered women but also children. And here I am, sitting, living and working in another northern Alberta community with vamps still being made. Three summers later. The vamps seem like a never-ending supply of those Indigenous peoples who have gone missing or have been murdered, not just women but also children, youth, men, or two-spirited folks. The vamps seem like a never-ending supply of those Indigenous peoples who have gone missing or have been murdered because Indigenous peoples continue to live with the on-going hurt and pain of those who continue to go missing or continue to be murdered.

This summer, after I first arrived in Alberta, I thought of Cindy Gladue. I had major anxiety just returning to the area. I had major anxiety knowing that Barton is still out there. I had someone message me on an online dating site. I asked him what he did for work. “I drive trucks,” he wrote. I immediately blocked him. Then, one night after leaving the parking lot of the hotel in the west end where I was staying, after receiving harassing messages online, I had tried to go for a walk and meet up with a friend. A man driving a silver SUV followed me for quite some time. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been followed creepily by a man driving a vehicle in strange areas but it was certainly triggering.

Here I am, still here. Sad. Hurt. Angry.

Yet, I don’t know if I am sad because I am still here and others like me are not, or if it is because these vamps are still being sent in…a never ending supply.

[1] https://kwetoday.com/2013/07/10/chateh-alberta/

[2] http://albertasport.ca/sport/future-leaders-program.aspx

[3] http://walkingwithoursisters.ca/about/the-project/

[4] Part of the program I work for requires that we include both art and sports projects throughout the summer.

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One comment

  1. This is well written and moving. It is so important for us to tell stories like this when we are able. You speak of your suffering and the suffering of those around you. It’s real. It’s here. It’s today, not yesterday, not a hundred years ago, waiting to be “got over”. It is still happening.

    Miigwech for sharing. I pray for safety and love to be with you and the communities you live with and near.

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