This past Saturday was the Shawls of Safety (SOS) gala fundraiser and silent auction on Rama first nation territory. The central focus of the event was for the SOS grassroots group to give voice to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the Tears of Justice campaigns supporting Marlene Bird. On June 1, 2014, Bird, a 47-year-old First Nations homeless woman was raped, severely beaten, slashed, set on fire and left for dead on the streets.
Marlene survived the attack, but is now facing blindness after reconstructive surgery to her face and had to have both her legs amputated. She was attacked by more than one assailant, but only one has been charged. Profits raised from the event also benefitted two local organizations – Green Haven shelter for women and Biminaazogin Regional Aboriginal Womens Circle, who both provide safe housing for women and children located in Orillia.[justified_image_grid ng_gallery=6] The gala had a full house, including many notable artists and public figures from many communities. The current mayor of Orillia, Angelo Orsi, and the incoming mayor, Steve Clarke, were both in attendance. Mayor Clarke told the Two Row Times that while it’s great that we can get together to support this cause, it’s sad that the issue of violence and missing and murdered indigenous women exists in Canada.
The master of ceremonies for the gala was the Order of Canada recipient and renowned actress, Tantoo Cardinal. In her opening address, Ms. Cardinal told the audience that her own mother died in violence. She also gave a message from Marlene Bird, stating that Marlene was happy and grateful that people were doing the fundraiser. Bird is currently living in an old age home.
Marlene’s dream is to find a place where she will be able to have some freedom. Ms. Cardinal said that women have to constantly remember that the mother earth is a feminine force and that new life is entrusted with them to carry in their bodies. The relationship between male and female is one of balance in order to support the greatest gift: new life and creation.
She also said, “The women are the root of our civilization and the root of our society. They carry the decisions forward, that carry the medicine, that carry the diplomacy, that carry the vision, for the children and for what is needed for the community and that’s what is needed for balance. That’s why this colonialist system attacks us.”
Gladys Radek, who is with Tears for Justice and an advocate for missing and murdered women, told the audience that each and every one of us is affected by violence: “I don’t know think that there isn’t anyone in this room that has not been affected by violence at one point in their life.”
Many well-known and talented artists contributed to the silent auction, such as Jay Bell Redbird. The performers for the gala featured Rama’s own veteran performer Ned Benson, along with rising star Sarah Stinson. The Manitou Mkwa singers; Spirit Bear singer from the Mississaugas of the New Credit; Yellow Butterfly Project; D’arcy Good, Brock Stonefish of Moraviantown, and Robbie Antone Blues Machine of the Oneida of the Thames Nation and Hip-Hop Hoop dancer Beany John performed, as well.
The Gala was still accepting donations after the event, but estimates of up to $9000 has been raised thus far.