Theland’s 134km walk for children of missing and murdered indigenous women

by: Obert Madondo  | April 7, 2015

During the October 2013 vigil for 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women, organized by the Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS) and held on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, a beautiful voice was heard. The voice belongs to Theland Kicknosway, an 11 year old Pottawatami Cree boy from Wahpole Island, who is also an inspiring community leader here on unceded Algonquin Territory.

Watch and listen:

Over the weekend, Theland, an accomplished hoop dancer and traditional drummer, completed a grueling personal journey seeking to “bring attention to the children of missing and murdered indigenous women.” He walked-and-ran 134 km from Ottawa, Ontario, to Kitigan Zibi, Quebec. He did it in 6 days, running/walking approximately 5-6 hours each day.

According to a statement released on the eve of the journey, “Theland feels it’s important to bring attention to the children of missing and murdered indigenous women.” That’s because these children “are forgotten and under-represented” in the conversation on the ongoing racialized violence against indigenous peoples in Canada.

The statement continued:

“These children lost their mothers, aunties, sisters, cousins and are left to struggle with the loss and trauma that largely goes unacknowleged.

Theland wants those children to know he is thinking about them and he will continue to “walk in a good way” to be there for them.”

Theland’s Journey began last Tuesday at a site in Gatineau Park, Gatineau, Quebec, where Kelly Morrisseau, an indigenous woman, was murdered in December, 2006. Morrisseau was a mother of three and seven months pregnant at the time of her murder. Theland’s journey ended at the house of Bridget Tolley in the Kitigan Zibi reserve in Quebec. Tolley, an Algonquin grandmother of five and co-founder of the Families of Sisters in Spirit, facilitated the journey.

FSIS is a grassroots not-for-profit volunteer organization led by families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Every year, the organization and its allies organize the annual October 4th and February 14th healing ceremonies and vigils honouring these victims.

During his journey, Theland made a stop at a spot on Highway 105 in Kitigan Zibi where Gladys Tolley, Bridget’s mother, was fatally struck by a Quebec police vehicle in October, 2001. He also stopped by a billboard dedicated to Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick, who disappeared from Maniwaki, Quebec, in September 2008.

Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick are two of the more than 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada today. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)

Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick are two of the more than 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada today. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)

Theland’s journey is about leadership. On the issue of violence against indigenous peoples in Canada, that’s something in short supply.

A groundbreaking report released by the RCMP in early 2014 says that 1,181 aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last 30 years. Aboriginal women comprise only 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, but they are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. They also comprise 11.3 per cent of missing women and 16 per cent of female homicides in Canada.

A report recently issued by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women says “the Canadian police and justice system have failed to effectively protect Aboriginal women, hold offenders to account, and ensure that victims get redress.” 

The report stated:

Canada has committed a “grave violation” of the rights of Aboriginal women by failing to promptly and thoroughly investigate the high levels of violence they suffer, including disappearances and murders… Aboriginal women and their families have experienced serious acts of violence that have significantly affected the right to life and personal security; the right to physical and mental integrity; and their health.” 

First Nations leaders and organizations, rights groups and individuals have repeatedly demanded a fully-funded national inquiry. A report released by Professor James Anaya, the former UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, last May, also called for an inquiry.

RELATED: Public Inquiry: Harper, Police Chiefs Don’t Care About Aboriginal Women

The Canadian state’s political and policing elites remain unmoved. During an interview with the CBC News in December, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a national inquiry “isn’t really high on our radar.” According to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, an inquiry “would only delay action.”

It’s left to individuals like Theland to show leadership on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

You can still support Theland’s fight for the rights and dignity of the children of missing and murdered aboriginal women. His Walking 4 MMIW Children crowd-funding appeal on the GoFundMe online fundraising site is still live. If the the $5,000 fundraising goal is reached, your generous donation will help to to cover the costs already incurred during Theland’s journey. The remainder will be dedicated to the FSIS’s annual October 4th vigil and other 2015 healing ceremonies.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow me on Twitter: @Obiemad