A beautiful 12-year-old girl’s life ended due to bullying.
When sweet little Jewel “Gawediyo” Monture died by suicide on Nov. 12, 2010 just a month shy of her 13th birthday, the community of Six Nations, and everyone who knew the smart, caring, funny, witty, budding actress, and dancer, was in shock.
Her passing momentarily shocked people into taking action against bullying, maybe being a bit more cognizant of the impacts their words and behaviour had on other people.
But 11 years later, it seems little has changed, and the lateral violence and bullying that took Jewel’s life has shown no signs of abating.
And it’s infuriating, says her mother Janie Jamieson.
She sees community members bashing each other and putting each other down online and she wonders when or how it will ever stop. If the passing of such an innocent soul didn’t stop community members from hurting each other, what will? she wonders.
“To see that cruelty among adults, it’s just infuriating. For some people, there was no lesson learned at all.”
With Ontario recognizing Nov. 21 to Nov. 27 as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, it’s timely to remind people of Jewel’s memory and the lessons to be learned from her legacy.
Jewel faced relentless bullying both at school and online and from both kids and adults, says Jamieson.
She changed schools many times to try and escape the bullying. Jamieson even went as far as filing police reports against her daughter’s harassers but they were unable to do anything about it.
“There was nothing they could do. They said it was all mental and emotional (bullying). The Criminal Code didn’t cover that, emotional or mental abuse, and because there was no physical threat, there was nothing they could do.”
Jamieson didn’t want her daughter’s death to be in vain or her memory to be forgotten.
So in 2012, she launched a charity clothing giveaway organization called Diyo’s Closet (Diyo was Jewel’s nickname from her traditional name), which started with the intent of providing free formal wear to boys and girls who couldn’t afford it for special occasions, such as graduations. It was a wish Jewel had expressed – for underprivileged youth to be able to wear beautiful formal wear through donations.
“She loved getting dolled up, she loved modelling; that was her thing,” said Jamieson.
Shortly before her passing, Jewel was looking at dresses for her grade 8 graduation the following year.
Jewel was surprised at the expensive cost of formal wear.
“She had mentioned, ‘I don’t know how other kids are going to be able to afford something like this.’ One day, she said she’d like to get a lot of dresses together and donate them. That was toward the end of grade 7. She passed away at the start of grade 8. She never got to her grade 8 grad. That was on my mind. She was a very, very giving person.”
Even as a youngster, Jewel wanted to use her birthday money to buy things for other people.
“She had a heart of gold. Her desire to help underprivileged youth didn’t surprise me. That was her.”
Today, Diyo’s Closet is an online success with a Facebook following of almost 700 members.
And it has expanded to include donations of all clothing items for all ages, even housewares and furniture, which is especially helpful for people who have lost everything in a fire, says Jamieson.
“It kind of evolved to people in need, from fires, mothers in need, housewares, you name it, lacrosse equipment, sports equipment, a really wide range of good or new condition donations. Everything is donated. I ask for nobody to exchange any kind of money.”
Diyo’s Online Closet has daily postings featuring gorgeous, gently used and even brand-new items, from high-end jackets, to shoes, to business attire for women getting back into the workforce.
Diyo’s Online Closet focuses on the Six Nations community because of the lack of transportation and also, because it’s part of the community’s tradition to care for each other and help each other.
“Kindness and caring is enshrined in our Great Law,” said Jamieson. “If we keep it on rez, it’s very easy to deliver and easy to pick up. It’s been a hit. A lot of people use it.”
And with the cold weather pretty much here, there are a lot of donations being offered for children’s winter clothing and boots for parents who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
Considering how hard the past two years has hit people financially, due to the pandemic, Diyo’s Closet is proving even more helpful than ever before, says Jamieson.
“I think it’s been a help for a lot of people. There’s been food donated at times. There’s kitchen supplies, utensils; it’s a really wide range and I’m really pleased with the outpouring from the community.”
The online group is mostly moms helping each other.
“I’m really proud of the fact that it’s evolved into what it has now.”
Seeing the generosity of community members sharing with each other in Diyo’s Online Closet helps Jamieson forget the ugliness of bullying.
“Every time I log on, my spirits get lifted. As we speak, I’m getting dresses mailed in from Mexico.”
And because it’s online, with porch drop offs, it’s a healthy and safe way to get what you need during the pandemic.
Jamieson says bullies need to look inside themselves and try to control their anger before lashing out at fellow community members.
“Just stop. There’s no need for that kind of unhealthiness. There’s no reason to be acting like you’re still at the play yard in the Mush Hole (the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford).”
Jamieson also encourages by-standers to gather the courage to stop bullies if they witness it happening.
“As the years passed (since Jewel’s death), that kindness has been forgotten by a lot of people. To see that cruelty and nastiness among adults, it just gets infuriating. It’s back to lateral violence as usual.”
The kindness exhibited at Diyo’s Online Closet helps.
“Pay it forward,” says Jamieson.
Anyone interested can request to join Diyo’s Online Closet on Facebook.