By Red Power Media, Staff
Annual memorial marches for missing and murdered indigenous women took place across Indian country on the weekend.
The first annual women’s memorial march began 26 years ago in Vancouver’s —unceded Coast Salish territory— Downtown Eastside (DTES).
There are now annual events in several Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, as well as two American cities, Minneapolis and Duluth.
Sunday afternoon, thousands of people in Vancouver marched through the DTES with a route that began at Main and Hastings streets for the 26th annual march to remember indigenous women who have died or gone missing — including those from the DTES — who have died from, “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence,” according to a news release.
The annual Vancouver march is organized every Valentine’s Day and started in 1991 after a woman’s body was found on Powell Street in the DTES.
RCMP estimate that almost 1,200 indigenous women were murdered or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012.
More than 200 women, men and children walked through snowy Winnipeg streets at the Women’s Memorial March on Sunday.
In Toronto, a march through the streets ended at police headquarters – a gesture meant to highlight the city’s still unsolved cases of missing and murdered Native women.
For years, victims’ families have asked for a national inquiry into the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered indigenous women. That wish was granted by the new Liberal government, and preparations are underway.
Now with a sense of cautious optimism the attention is turning to how an inquiry will be conducted.
“Family members have ensured that awareness continues to be raised and our government is fundamentally committed to working with the families, working with organizations to make sure we put forward an inquiry that is reflective of what the families are asking for,” said Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, who attended the Vancouver march for the seventh time.
Victims’ families are invited to attend pre-inquiry meetings across Canada. The closed-door consultations will help design what the inquiry will look like.
On the weekend, 1st and 2nd Annual Women’s Memorial Marches also took place in solidarity with Duluth and Minneapolis to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Minnesota.
Northland’s NewsCenter reports, Shelia St. Clair, a Duluth Native-American woman went missing in September, and another Northland indigenous woman, Lisa Isham, was murdered in the summer of 2015.
One representative of Native Lives Matter says 3 Minnesota Indigenous women in the past year have lost their lives or are missing, but that there needs to be better policies put in place in order to track that data.
Recently three men were arrested and charged in connection with the disappearance and murder of Rose Downwind near Bemidji Minnesota in October of last year.
Downwind is the daughter of Darla Banks and granddaughter of American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks.