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Kjipuktuk marches for all our missing and murdered Indigenous relations

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KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Sunday afternoon marked the Kjipuktuk March for MMIR – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relations. It was also the second year in a row that people gathered in the Public Gardens for a REDress ceremony.

The REDress Project originated in 2014 as a public art installation  by Métis artist Jaime Black, in response to the thousands of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

See also: Red Dresses in Kjipuktuk: “A lot of the women didn’t have to die”

Organizers used MMIR (relations) instead of MMIW (women) to consider those in our communities who live beyond the confines of the gender binary.

Over 200 Mi’kmaw, friends and allies gathered at the Peace and Friendship Park in the city’s South End and marched to the Public Gardens.

People were invited to join in prayer and to honour and remember lost lives and loved ones. They reflected on colonial violence, on the genocide that links the disappearance and death of so many Indigenous family and friends.

ThunderBird Swooping Down Woman and others read the names of some of the Indigenous loved ones lost in Mi’kma’ki, many to police violence, as red dresses and ties were draped in their honour: Annie Mae (Pictou) Aquash, Tanya Brooks, Loretta Saunders, Carl Bernard, Cassidy Bernard, Rodney Levi, Chantel Moore, Abraham Natahine, Regis Korchinsky Paquet, Eisha Hudson, Everett Patrick, Jason Collins, Stewart Kevin Andrews.

They also read the names of two people who have recently gone missing, but whose disappearances have been mostly unreported. Aaliyah Manyheads, 14 years old, was last seen February 1st in Calgary, and Chelsea Poorman has been missing from Vancouver since September of 2020.

The march and REDress event comes just days after an APTN report confirms that in the fall of 2020 the RCMP and DFO were well aware of the likelihood of violence by some Digby county non-Indigenous fishers. 

During weeks of violent backlash, officers were told to stand by, to observe and report, but not to interfere. And stand by they did.

This sad state of affairs was the culmination of an already heart-wrenching year of more Indigenous deaths at the hands of the police, more child apprehensions and birth alerts by the state, and criminalization of Alton Gas water protectors and land defenders.

This coming spring will mark the second year since the final report on Murdered and Missing Indigenous women and girls. The report states unequivocally that the state of Canada is guilty of ongoing genocide. And yet, as Anishinaabek leader Tamara Bernard puts it in her TEDx Talk, we seem to lack the moral panic to address this crisis.

The march was a call to action, and served as a reminder that  communities are still strong, young people are still firmly grounded, and people still care deeply for the seven generations to come.

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