I attended the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Thunder Bay, Ontario. As a member of the Aboriginal Ministries Council, I went there to be in solidarity with the families and to witness. These are my reflections.
Hovering over a blanket of Sacred objects and Eagle Feathers, a beautifully coloured red jingle dress embellished with bright red jingles, hung empty and motionless on a hanger. It was the unfulfilled promise of tomorrows never lived. Underneath the dress, on a stone Qulliq, a flame danced, carefully tended by an Inuit Elder on the northern edge of the blanket.
The room was filled with sweet aroma of burned sage and sweetgrass incense and tears… many tears… many, many tears. Tears of sorrow, tears of anger, tears of frustration, and tears of hope. Tears that the injustices and losses we held in common might find change in the light of Truth shining upon our human darkness.
I listened to seven stories tearfully told in halting phrases over the next two days. Sisters, mothers, aunties, children, brothers, and fathers told these stories. There were supporting families with each story who were followed into the circle by women drummers from the surrounding communities. The throbbing beats of the drumming awakened our ears to sensitive holy listening.
Truth lives here, in this moment… painful Truth, washed clean with the tears of sorrow, as each story shone its light upon the life that was, the wounded lives that survive, the tightened lives locked in anger, and the liberated lives that could be.
The listeners, commissionaires, and supporters were moved to tears themselves, as they could do nothing but listen. I felt the pain and saw the tears in their responses back to the families. To be truly heard, I think, would only be the beginning of healing.
I found those stories about those who were murdered and had their murders resolved were sad and angering.
I found those stories about those who were murdered and the murders were unresolved, were frustrating and painful.
I found that those stories that were about someone missing and not yet found nor resolved, were deeply wounding.
Creator/God, or Creator, or no matter what your belief is, when tears come, healing begins, for they are the tears of Creator God… and we listen.
— Lee Claus is Onkwehonwe, a Mohawk of the Bay of Quinte, and is an active member of the Aboriginal Ministries Council of The United Church of Canada.
How to Help
Attend a community hearing in your area.
You can also watch the National Inquiry live stream or past community hearings.
For more information, go to the United Church Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls web page.
See the accounts from other MMIWG hearings around the country.