A small group of agencies from Haldimand and Norfolk counties as well as people from Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) and Six Nations, are collaborating on a project that will bring the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, into the school curriculum. Using the Faceless Dolls project, which was created by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to help raise awareness on the alarming statistics of violence against Indigenous women, the group got together last Friday to assemble the faceless dolls.
According to NWAC’s website, the Faceless Dolls project is a, “Visual representation of strong and beautiful [ Indigenous women who have become ‘faceless’ victims of crime. This collaboration resulted in NWAC’s Faceless Doll Project, called, Each Statistic Tells a Story.”
According to Sarah Smith from Haldimand Norfolk Women’s Services (HNWS), “We have been in full support of Sisters in Spirit for the last couple of years. Amber Wardel has attended vigils in Hamilton and Brantford. Amber is currently on a maternity leave now and I have stepped into her position as Women’s Councilor and Coordinator of the Justice for Women Committee. It is through Justice for Women that we have received funds to support Sisters in Spirit.”
The HNWS have been hosting local sessions to educate and raise awareness around the missing and murdered women and girls as well as honour the families and provide support. “We are inviting all members of all ages, both men and women, to support the families by creating Faceless Dolls in order to raise awareness and to honour the Indigenous women and girls that have been missing/murdered,” stated Smith.
Last Friday, Val King of MNCFN and Aileen Joseph of Six Nations met with HNWS in Simcoe to talk about their personal journey and how they became involved in raising awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Joseph explained that on July 2, 2004, her daughter Shelley, 40, a mother of four, was brutally murdered by her estranged partner in Hamilton, Ontario. Joseph and her family were victimized again when they heard the news that Shelley’s killer only spent a minimal amount of time in jail and now walks freely. Joseph believes that had her daughter not been a First Nations woman, her killer may still be in jail.
Since her daughter’s brutal murder, Joseph and her family have connected with other families who have lost loved ones under similar circumstances, from all across Canada. To be able to connect with these people, Joseph believes, has helped her in her healing journey; that is, to be able to connect with people who have gone through similar tragic events. Joseph also attends vigils in Ottawa for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and also organizes similar events locally, along with Val King.
King explained how she became to be involved in this new venture. “Sara Smith contacted me and said one of her goals was to work with a person involved in this issue. The shelter gave them my name. I met her and she wanted to do the Faceless Dolls Project and gather as many various groups together in different areas in Haldimand and Norfolk to create awareness and education.” King stated that the Faceless Dolls will go into the local fairs and into the schools where she will do presentations. There will also be upcoming vigils for missing and murdered Indigenous women in October in Simcoe, Port Dover and Waterford.
Most recently, Joseph and King put on a spaghetti fundraiser dinner for Marlene Bird, a First Nations woman in Saskatchewan who was the victim of a vicious attack that left her with a double leg amputation, skin grafts and facial reconstructive surgery. A little over 800 dollars was raised in total, all of which went directly to Ms. Bird.