The third annual Strawberry ceremony and Vigil for the missing/murdered aboriginal women and girls took place February 13 at Hagersville and New Credit community hall. As awareness of this issue has grown so has the attendance, which more than doubled from last year. The organizers of the event were Edebwed Ogichidaa (Val King) and Aileen Joseph. The vigil began at Main and King Street in Hagersville. People holding signs and candles circled the intersection multiple times. Honks of support from passing vehicles joined with the sounds of traditional singing and hand drumming throughout the rally. The vigil portion of the event continued onto the New Credit community hall where the strawberry ceremony was performed outside where tobacco, strawberries and cedar were burned.
There was a video presentation of “Sisters in Spirit” by one of its co-creators Wonda Jamieson. The film demonstrated the importance of women in their communities and the valuable roles they perform within them. It also pointed out that Onkwehon:we women are 17 per cent more likely to be assaulted than non-Onkwehon:we women and 88 percent of the missing and murdered were mothers. Wonda also spoke, while pushing through tears, about her own mother’s tragedy; Cynthia Lynette Jamieson. She was of the Mohawk bear clan from Six Nations and a mother of three children. She was brutally raped, beaten & murdered in Hamilton in June 2003. She is not forgotten by those who knew and loved her.
Aileen Joseph spoke, with tears, about her daughter’s murder 10 years ago and how she wished she picked her daughter up that night. She also recited a poem she wrote in memory of Shelly with the message of 10 birthdays missed. Mrs. Joseph has done the beadwork on moccasin vamps in memory of her daughter for the Walking with our Sisters exhibit; but she has not sent them in yet because she currently has them framed as part of her healing journey. Holding up a copy of last week’s Two Row Times, she told the crowd that having her daughter Shelly’s photo on the cover has helped her on her healing journey. She also stated that the mainstream media coverage over the last 10 years has been very limited and almost non-existent on this issue.
Singer Lacey Hill performed two beautiful and genuine heartfelt songs that moved the audience. All the speakers throughout the event were emotionally stirred by this issue presenting staggering facts and their personal stories of loss and tragedy, no matter how long ago, clearly resonated throughout the attending audience. The evening ended with everyone holding hands in a circle giving thanks for all those who helped with the event and talking about how the issue of the missing and murdered women has affected them.