TWU remembers missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada on International Women's Day
“It was significant that we do it at that time, remembering that these women didn’t have a chance to fulfill their fullest potential and their destiny, because of the acts of other people that murdered them, or that they’re missing.”
— Patricia Victor, University Siya:m
In recognition of International Women’s Day, Trinity Western University commemorates the occasion with an outdoor story walk at the Langley campus to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
“Throughout the past decades, there are over a thousand missing Indigenous women and girls, that have been missing or murdered throughout Canada,” explained Patricia Victor, University Siya:m and Director of the Institute of Indigenous Issues and Perspectives at TWU.
“[The story walk] is a remembrance of their lives.”
As Trinity Western's University Siya:m, Victor supports Aboriginal students directly as a coach and mentor, and works closely with faculty to ensure that Aboriginal perspectives are integrated in all disciplines, providing opportunities for the TWU community to become sensitive and knowledgeable about Aboriginal worldview, history and culture. Victor is Stó:lō, from Cheam First Nation, B.C.
Thinking of the significance of International Women’s Day, Victor said, “It was significant that we do it at that time, remembering that these women didn’t have a chance, to fulfill their fullest potential and their destiny because of the acts of other people that murdered them, or that they’re missing.”
For Victor, this is a topic that has both global and local relevance.
“It’s a personal journey for me as well, in the sense that I have a dear precious friend that just recently – 49 weeks ago – her daughter, in her early twenties, went missing,” she said.
“[They are] still looking for her and there are no clues to what happened. It was just, she was home one day and gone the next, and then never to be found.”
Bringing attention to our shared history
Victor hopes that the story walk will help raise awareness among Canadians.
“Every Indigenous community across Turtle Island (a name for the continent of North America) faces and has family members that are either murdered or missing; and it affects all of us,” she said.
Victor noted, “It seems to be that sense that Indigenous women and girls aren’t valuable; they’re not worth anything.”
“There seems to be still that mindset when we take a look at our shared history, that Indigenous people are ‘less than,’ and we’re seeing this played out, in the way that Indigenous women and girls are being viewed,” she said.
She continued, “It’s really important that we remember. It’s really important that we take a look at the justice system that doesn’t seem to place priority upon missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. So, [we are] raising awareness so that we can make some change to that as well.”
Prayer for a better future
Victor hopes to see a better future for Canadians. “[We are] wanting to change that view as well, so that my daughters and my grand-daughters will be safe and live in a safe environment.”
During the process of setting up the story walk, Victor began by singing two prayer songs. As she explained about the first song, “It’s a prayer to honour God. It’s a prayer to remember our ancestors, [and] it’s a prayer for our future generations.”
Victor also hopes the story walk will bring value to her campus community. “It’s also a prayer that, as students, staff and faculty come onto campus…[as they] look at the story board, that it will be impactful for them, and that they’ll begin to realize that changes need to be made.”
After all, Canadian history is shared history. As Victor emphasized, “It’s not just the Indigenous people who need to stand up for what’s right and just, but all of us need to do that. It’s a journey together.”
Carrying on the heart of Stó:lō elders
During the setting up of the story walk, Victor sung songs in Halq’eméylem, the language of the Stó:lō people.
“The song at the end is a song speaking of the voice of the murdered and missing Indigenous women,” Victor said. “Both of the songs I sang today were written by Stó:lō elders in our community, and we want to give them honour for sharing their gift with us today. They’ve long gone on, and so [the intent is] to carry on their tradition and their heart.”
Following the songs, cedar boughs were placed above the story walk’s trellises, as well as around the garden walk way.
“Cedar is a very important part of Stó:lō tradition and values, and it signifies the importance of the work that’s being done here today,” Victor said.
Victor hopes that, for visitors, “…As we walk and as we view, that we learn. We allow the Spirit of God to speak to us, to see what our part is to play, in this journey together.”
Read this story in The Langley Advance Times:
TWU in Langley Advance Times
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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Photo credits: Cheyanne Makelki