May 5th is Canada’s National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (Red Dress Day), and the Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls National Day of Action in the U.S.
A call to action for a U.S. National Day of Awareness is here.
“How can we help?”
When we don’t know how to start helping someone, listening to their stories is a very good place to start. In this video, I talk about my favourite books written and illustrated by, with, or about Indigenous Women and Girls.
I recognize talking about MMIWG2S with kids is not easy. Here are some resources for learning, art projects, books, and tips for getting started. Please note that these resources are for caregivers and educators, as the content may not be appropriate for all ages.
- The REDress Project, created by Jaime Black, is an aesthetic response to violence against Indigenous women.
- Red Dress Window Art file — this PDF includes the pattern I followed for the red dress I show in the video, links for adult learning, and tips for how to talk to younger kids about MMIWG.
- Blog post from Mom Amy Desjarlais about how she started talking to her son and nephew about MMIWG.
- The “Student and Youth Engagement Guide from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” contains definitions, history, and booklists and topics for discussions grouped by student age.
- The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center has links, graphics, and resources for awareness postings.
Books in the video
- My Heart Fills With Happiness, written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett.
- Mama, Do You Love Me? Written by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee.
- Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, written and illustrated by Danielle Daniel.
- Birdsong, written and illustrated by Julie Flett.
- What’s my Superpower? Written by Aviaq Johnston and illustrated by Tim Mack.
- When I Was Eight, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard.
- I Am Not A Number, written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland. (recommended for middle grades and up)
- The Water Walker, written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson.
- Nibi’s Water Song, written by Sunshine Tenasco, illustrated by Chief Lady Bird.
- When We Were Alone, written by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett.
- Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal.
- May We Have Enough to Share, written by Richard Van Camp with photographs by Tea and Bannock, and beaded artwork by Caroline Blechert.
- You Hold Me Up, written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel.
I also wear red…because I have participated in the erasure of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons. I was taught that my Great Great Grandmother was a “Choctaw Indian Princess.” I learned in June, 2020 that she was Scottish and born in Indian Territory, Oklahoma. The name of the region speaks to the rich heritage of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations who have lived there and who were forcibly removed from those lands by the U.S. government. My generational wealth increased when my family received those lands. “I can’t be racist, I’ve got an Indian princess in my family tree” is yet another false narrative white body supremacy uses to cognitively distance white people from our racist behaviours and beliefs, and the ways we benefit from the peril of others. It kept me from leaning into and learning from my family’s past, from being silent when I should listen, and from speaking up when I see the truth. It erased my sense of rage over what was happening to MMIWG2S and left me with a sense of sadness that was more palatable to my whiteness. I’m done with my sweet tea. This year, I wear red with more purpose, more rage, and a (for now) better understanding of my place in raising awareness.