On Friday, October 4th people will join together in communities across the country to honor the lives of missing and murdered indigenous woman and girls (MMIWG). As stated on the Government of Alberta website, “In Canada more than 1,200 Indigenous woman and girls have gone missing or been murdered. The Government of Alberta will declare October 4, 2019 as Sisters in Spirit Day in the Province of Alberta. The Government of Alberta is committed to creating a province where Indigenous women and girls are valued, respected and safe.”
Working with Indigenous communities heightened my awareness of this important issue. When the older sister of one of my students went missing, the systemic challenges surrounding MMIWG became very real to me. Unfortunately, the frequency of MMIWG tragedies did not limit my experience to just one. There are far too many stories just like it. The student, now an adult, has given permission on behalf of the family, for me to share this tragic story. The events of the Joey English tragedy were very public in nature as there was wide spread media coverage. While the investigation unfolded, and media releases ensued, our school community supported the student and his family. He exhibited great courage, determination and resiliency in the face of tragedy, and graduated from high school. After graduation, he moved to Calgary in order to help his mom raise his nieces. This October he will begin classes to further his education.
In honor of Joey, and as part of their own healing journey, the English family has organized the “Calling my Spirit Back” walk. They are walking 200 km’s from Piikani First Nations to Calgary, from Oct. 2nd – Oct. 4th 2019. They also hope to raise awareness about MMIWG and the importance of connecting to culture as an approach to healing. In addition to a “Justice for Joey” Facebook page, there has also been media coverage of the event. Any funds raised will go toward purchasing a headstone for Joey.