Six Nations letting down its women, says young Haudenosaunee woman

After an explosion of violent crime on the territory during the pandemic, and a recent, horrifying assault on a young Six Nations woman that left her hospitalized, the community is gearing up to put a stop to this disturbing trend.

And today, as communities across Canada mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the issue of violence in the community is something that won’t, and cannot be, ignored.

How the solution looks is another matter. Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council wants to form a community task force to tackle the violence on the territory after reading a heart-wrenching letter from a young Six Nations woman at last week’s general council meeting, where the youth, named Kennedy, pleaded for help in ending the ever-growing spectre of violent crime and assault on the territory.

“We’re all seeing it and we’re all part of this community,” said Elected Chief Mark Hill. “We all have a role to play in making everyone feel safe in our territory.”

Kennedy, who grew up on the reserve, says she’s concerned for the safety and well-being of herself, family and friends after witnessing the recent explosion in violent crime.

“Gun violence and drug abuse has become rampant and it feels like nothing is being done. Our community is caught in a chokehold of fear and violence and it saddens me to see news of the constant deaths that seem to occur.”

She feels like every day she wakes up to see more depressing news of community harm and crime towards each other.

She said her family experienced a break in a few years ago which still affects her to this day. “There are nights that I have trouble falling asleep, afraid of the noises outside of my home, wondering what or who could be out there. This fear is constantly in the back of our minds and no person should have to live in fear in their own community, let alone their own homes.”

The vicious assault on Six Nations woman Autumn Martin last month, by two young males who unleashed attack dogs on her and left her for dead, shocked the community.

She was hospitalized and has permanent injuries from the attack.

The attack had people questioning the value placed on women, especially considering the higher risk Indigenous women face when it comes to assault and violent crime.

“As a young indigenous woman I’m very aware of the high rates of violence against women that look like me,” said Kennedy. “The recent attack of Autumn Martin has shaken my spirit and the lack of leadership response has saddened me deeply.”

She said the attack has resulted in feelings of fear and loneliness among women in the community.

The perpetrators of the attack are out on bail.

“I don’t believe the individuals responsible should be walking freely in our territory. This sends a message to others that this type of behaviour is acceptable and they’re able to get away with such crimes. Autumn and every woman deserves to feel safe and supported in the community. In our culture, we are taught that women are sacred and life givers. But how are we to believe that when there is constant news of the community letting our women down? Our community is sick and more must be done to improve it.”

She called on the leadership to make a change.

“Please end the violence and sickness in our home and create safety for the new generations.”

Chief Hill said the increased violence “has been weighing heavily” on him.

“I’m prepared to do whatever I have to do. Our community members each have a role to play.”

It hasn’t helped that the community just faced a challenging two-year pandemic.

He remembers a point in time people didn’t even have to lock their doors.
“Now it’s security cameras, gates, it’s fences, it’s everything, to protect their own families from what’s happening on our territory.”

The chief himself had his house set ablaze in 2020 while he slept inside. He managed to escape unharmed. The house was destroyed and he had to move elsewhere.

“We have to come up with an action plan,” he said. “It has to be community driven.”

Coun. Nathan Wright, who sits on the Six Nations Police Commission, said the topic dominated last week’s meeting.

He said it’s not a policing issue alone and that the whole community needs to come together to come up with solutions.

Chief Hill said the violence has been “festering for years and it’s time that everybody put their differences aside and focus on our young ones.”

He said what Autumn Martin endured was “horrible” and that his office will be reaching out to the family.

Council agreed to bring the issue back to its next meeting to continue the dialogue on an anti-violence strategy.

“We’ve already been through enough with this pandemic,” said Chief Hill.

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