Annual walk for MMIWGB2S+ highlights non-binary, two-spirit people

Non-binary and non-heterosexual Indigenous people face violence at a rate seven times higher than cis-het Indigenous men and women.

The inclusion of two-spirit and non-binary individuals at this year’s annual walk for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Boys and Two-Spirit folks was highlighted as Miss Six Nations Dawn Martin, who identifies as two-spirit and pansexual, spoke about the extra challenges they face in reassuring their own individual safety in their day to day lives.

She said at first contact, when non-Indigenous people first arrived on Turtle Island, that two-spirit people were seen as even more non-human and were the first to be massacred.

“I was born and raised in the longhouse and it has taken me my whole life to come to accept my identity; that being discriminatory and prejudiced towards our two spirit people is not really right.”

Yesterday (Feb. 14) marked the annual walk Ganohkwasra holds to honour and remember MMIWGB2S+ in the community.

“I would say it’s still not safe today for two-spirit people to be proud in their identities. It’s still unsafe for us to really be who we are. It’s like a slow death, a slow kill, to be discriminatory toward those people.”

In a four-year period alone, from 2013 to 2018, four Six Nations men were murdered, shared Ganohkwasra counsellor Amber Silversmith with about 100 people who joined in the march through Ohsweken yesterday.

“It’s hard for us to imagine this type of violence is happening in our community,” said Silversmith.
The campaign to remember those lost to violence was originally called Love Starts With Us and focused on women.

It has evolved to include all demographics of Indigenous people.

The campaign started with about five female community members who got together to do something about the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women.

“They wanted to start talking about it because it was very much silenced in our community,” said Silversmith, a counsellor at Ganohkwasra. “It wasn’t something that we talked about openly.”

The original pilot project was “Embrace Her With Love” because at the time, a lot of the focus was on women.

Since then, it’s shifted to men and non-binary and two-spirit victims of violence, as well.

“We could see that there was a high need to include our men and what did that look like. We didn’t know at the time so we changed the name to, ‘embrace them with love’ to include our family members that had men murdered in their families.”

Silversmith said, “That was another thing our group needed to focus on. We need to bring in other that are identifying different these days. We’re talking specifically our pride community, our two-spirited…we need to share that love no matter how we choose to identify or how our young ones are choosing to identify. Violence knows no race, no gender, no age.”

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