Mar 13, 2014 - Why We Don’t Need a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry By: Andrea Landry
Colonialism will not save us.
A missing and murdered indigenous women’s inquiry by the federal government is not the answer. In the words of Leanne Simpson “White supremacy, rape culture, and the real and symbolic attack on gender, sexual identity and agency are very powerful tools of colonialism, settler colonialism, primarily because they work very efficiently to remove Indigenous peoples from our territories and to prevent reclamation of those territories through mobilization.” This attack directly links the Indigenously universal issue in which colonial logic attempts to forcefully impede Indigenous reality through indoctrination and normalization of a violent cycle. This staged war with violence against the bodies of Indigenous women as the weapon, defies the historical and inherent law of the land in relation to Indigenous peoples and nations.
This colonially imposed war with the volatile use of bodies of Indigenous women can be seen in the context of the relationship between a bull and the matador. The oppressor is the matador, the red flag is the concept that oppressive politics (an inquiry by the federal government) will save us and we are the bull, charging forward with our life forces, passion, and over 500 years of oppression. Sometimes we hit that matador and that red flag, yes most times we are a pawn in the game of oppressor vs. the oppressed. Our truth to them of seeking answers to the unjust realities of violence against Indigenous women is a taunt, a taunt to our bodies, our tongues, our minds, and spirits.
The fear that the perpetrator places on their victim provides them a sense of superiority, a facade and source of colonial freedom. The freedom uses the body of the Indigenous women to attempt to internalize colonial shame and guilt within us. Colonial and settler logic alike indoctrinates and normalizes this colonial freedom, pacifying those exposed to Indigenous truth. This collective rhetoric established by a dictatorship is meant to create a complete expulsion of liberation and freedom to our bodies and territories as Indigenous women.
Will an inquiry end the violence against Indigenous women embedded in the blood streams of oppressors?
I say no. No to an inquiry established by a structure meant to murder, rape, and annihilate the Indigenous self. Yet, I also respect the perspective of others in this area, the others who have faced the emotions surrounding this issue. The reasons.
If we take a close look at an inquiry we see the invalidity and weakness behind it. Inquiries only provide an advisory role to the colonial government. That colonial government can, and will, define, dictate, and decide the purpose, mandate, process, and outcome of that inquiry. Inquiries are not legally binding and only establish the facts of this crisis in our communities. Guess what? We know those facts, stories, stats, rates and names. We, as Indigenous women, are the facts, we are the stories, the stats, the rates, and the names. An inquiry cannot legally state anyone or anything as guilty, and it cannot establish or make the colonial government or others act a certain way or even follow the recommendations created. If the colonial government were to put the dollars in to “fix” an issue that they continuously create and justify, and if we were to agree to work together, we would be shaking hands with and embodying the oppressor. This destructive relationship would be one sided and would attempt to disregard and void the grassroots work occurring in our communities to define our own solutions. We are holding on so tightly to a line cast set out by the colonial government to be our saviors in establishing this inquiry that this line is digging deep into our hands and into our spirits, spilling more blood.
What are other solutions?
The solutions lay within ourselves. Prevention. We are promoting the continuation of this violent cycle simply by focusing on a federally funded inquiry rather than establishing prevention in ourselves, our communities, and the land stolen to create colonial cities. In a report released by FIMI (Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indigenas) the story of Rebecca Lolosoli was shared. A story of true resistance. “Rebecca Lolosoli, an Indigenous women from Kenya, developed a bold strategy to meet the needs of Indigenous women forced to flee their communities because of gender-based violence: she founded an independent, women-run village for survivors. Rebecca and 15 other women established Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, in 1990. The women were survivors of rape by British soldiers stationed for training on their ancestral lands. Because of the rapes, their husbands ostracized them and many were forced from their homes for having “shamed” their families. They were granted a neglected field of dry grassland, where they have worked hard to create a unique and flourishing community. One of hr women’s first collective acts was to file a lawsuit against the British military for the rapes of over 1400 Samburu women during the 1980s and 90s.” (2006). Women such as Lolosoli chose to defy the oppressor and become sovereign in a solution. Sovereign solutions are the path we must choose- yet the obstacles in our communities may seem insurmountable.
Indigenous women are defenders of the land and defenders of their communities. The capability of women holding and sharing inherent and invaluable rights is integral to the livelihoods and prevention of violence against Indigenous women at a grassroots level. The answers are in prevention and the reduction of shame around rape for individual women themselves. Yet, it is also through the collaboration of men, children, and elders in which we can stand the strongest. Spread the knowledge of respect and truth outside of our inner circles. The recommendations developed in colonial policy focus solely on the human level, completely neglecting the level of the land and the level of treaty.
In order for justice to be reached without the aid of a missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry developed by the federal government we must utilize and critically analyze the systems that have been in place and that may have worked in the past. Yet the challenges of corruption, greed, and dismissal will have to be faced as well, whether it is the RCMP, or the federal justice system. Yet, this alone will not bring forth the justice that is needed in our communities. In Ecuador, Indigenous peoples have collaborated to ensure that the judicial system interweaves Indigenous judicial systems into the mainstream system. It was passed in 2008; with high success rates of ensuring Indigenous justice is achieved in a variety of arenas. The more our voices rise together to ensure productive change at the stem of the issue, the more justice will be received.
We, as Indigenous women, are our mothers, our nokomis’, our kokums, our binoojins. We are the life force and DNA of generations slain by colonial freedom. Yet, we cannot and will not accept that falsity. We are our own definitions. And we will not claim a false sense of freedom created from colonial and settler logic. An inquiry will lead to a handshake with malicious intents and forgotten truths. We will rise through our own solutions.
An inquiry established by the oppressors claims false hope and will further deepen our own roles of self-colonization. Reject colonial freedom and accept Indigenous truth and liberation- for your nokomis, your kokum, your daughters, your grand-daughters, and for those women whose voices and blood are within us and the land.