Healing in Community/ First Nations and Harmony between men and women

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Submitted by Arnold on
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Hello everyone,

Well, it looks like I'm finally making some progress in breaking out of my isolation. The way I'm doing this kind of took me by surprise and is stirring up matters in need of healing that I thought I'd never have to face.

I attended a vigil last September at our local First Nations Friendship Centre in honour of and working towards a solution to what is called around here "Sisters in Spirit". (see: http://www.amnesty.ca/our-work/campaigns/no-more-stolen-sisters). The issue has a sexual dimension to it (it isn't happening to aboriginal boys and men at anywhere near the same level) and it has a cultural dimension to it (the missing aboriginal women number proportionally far more than missing women in general in Canada). I was very impressed with the healing circle that the local First Nations community (Okanagan people) created at the event. I asked about how I could be involved in more healing circles of this nature and was told that there is a men's group at the centre. It took me a while to attend (I was very sick over the winter), but started attending a couple of weeks ago. I am immensely impressed with their healing related skills in that group too.

As I've been trying to find a way to bridge the gap between the European origin (dominant) community into which I was born and the Okanagan people, I've done some research into their traditional culture. They have (had?) a far deeper appreciation for the value of all life and balanced and harmonious relations than we do. There isn't really a place for the "Power over others" and "Might makes right" mentality that is so deeply rooted in our dominant culture. They also have a very different and far healthier relationship to the natural world.

When it comes to relations between men and women, I don't know much. I do know that they trace their lineage through the female line. I've come across some videos (see links below) that would suggest that relations between men and women based on traditional First Nations' values are far more respectful and far more harmonious than our culture has demonstrated for a very long time. I'm curious to know about how they supported harmonious relations and if they used physically intimate relations to deepen and strengthen this bond. If anybody here has some insight into this matter I would appreciate hearing about it very much.





Missing Aboriginal Women in Canada

Hi Marnia,

Amnesty International is using the word "stolen" loosely. They are formally missing or murdered. The police report (see: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.pdf) says "Most homicides were
committed by men and most of the perpetrators knew their victims — whether as an acquaintance or a spouse. "

There are many unknowns in this problem. It has deep roots in the way our dominant Canadian culture has treated First Nations people for a long time. The lack of effective response to this particular problem is disturbing. The motives described in the report are: "the most frequent motive in Aboriginal female homicides was “argument or quarrel” representing 40% of all incidents (compared to 23% for non-Aboriginal females). “Frustration, anger or despair” was the second most frequent motive identified in Aboriginal female homicides at 20% (compared to 30% for non-Aboriginal females)".

The new premier of Alberta took the lead recently in addressing this issue by apologizing for the past treatment of First Nations people by Canadians and adding her voice to the people who are wanting a more formal inquiry into what is going on with these missing women (see:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/alberta-premier-apologizes-f...). There is alot of debate in legal circles about what to do (see:http://www.nationalmagazine.ca/Blog/March-2014/Missing-and-murdered-abor...).

For many First Nations people it boils down to this: "Claudette Dumont Smith, the executive director of the Native Women’s Association, is quoted as responding to the report by saying “We continue to be, I find, treated as second-class citizens. An aboriginal woman could be disposed of – and that’s it, that’s all.”"

It's very tragic and needs to change. Their traditional cultures have much to offer ours and we can certainly do more to help them. The past is loaded with violence driven primarily by our past colonial attitudes and that has to be unraveled and healed. It's a very big job particularly because there are historical land claims issues that need to be addressed with openness and integrity. The "Truth and Reconciliation" event (see:http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3) and the Sisters in Spirit problem are drawing attention to the need for change and a deep level of healing between our peoples.

The level of integration of balanced and harmonious relations in traditional Okanagan people's mindset intrigues me. It's so much deeper than ours. It would be so good if we could find a way to integrate something similar into our culture for many reasons. A good place to start is healing our current and historical relationship to all North American First Nations people. It's what I'm working on right now in my life for my own healing process with the local Okanagan people.




I guess I was asking whether this is mostly a problem within the First Nation community, or a problem of non-First Nation murderers killing First Nation women. I'm sure it's both to some extent...but I was curious about percentages. Maybe no one knows.

Percentages White vs. Native perpetrators

Hi Marnia,

As far as I know, that piece isn't known or perhaps is being downplayed to avoid any racist overtones. I would suspect its a mix. The RCMP report (pg 13) (http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.pdf) mentions that some of the murders involved a familial relationship. The very infamous murders carried out by Robert Picton targeted prostitutes and undoubtedly contained aboriginal women victims. He looked pretty white to me. One of the stories I read about was of a First Nation's woman in Quebec who was run down by a Surete du Quebec police cruiser. Apparently the police never apologized to family members. There are two perpetrators named in the "highway of Tears" murders (Bobby Jack Fowler and Leland Vincent Switzer). The names don't sound particularly native but hard to say for sure. Fowler is from Texas which would certainly make it unlikely that he was a native person from the local area. There are accusations of racism targeting the victims in this case too (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_of_Tears_murders#Accusations_of_ra...).

Page 12 & 13 of the RCMP report claim that the perpetrators of known murders were: " were mostly male (89%) as opposed to female (11%)... a casual acquaintance (17% compared to 9%) or by someone with whom they had a criminal relationship (7% compared to 3%)...Spousal relationships (married, divorced, common-law and separated individuals) were also prominent, though Aboriginal female victims were less often killed by a current or former spouse (29% compared to 41%). " (The comparison, when made, is with female victims in general).

I think the issue that is getting attention is why has there been so little effective action to protect these women? The rate at which they are disappearing is so much higher than the general population. This has been known for many years now apparently. Studies don't do much to stop the violence. The RCMP report identified it as both a policing issue and a social issue.