Dozens took to the streets of Ndilo and Yellowknife on Tuesday to mark the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Tuesday.
The march began at the Ndilo gym and continued all the way to Yellowknife’s Northern United Place, where there was a sharing circle and a turkey dinner. The procession featured drumming, chanting, and a banner advertising the Native Women’s Association of the NWT.
The procession was led by Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine. He said the goal of the march was to “walk with our sisters [and] the other family members.”
“This walk really symbolizes the need for us to come together as a family, to look at ourselves as a family. Also, our functions and our responsibilities to make sure that we rebuild ourselves, restore ourselves, and protect our family as we move forward,” he adds.
According to a 2014 operational overview by the RCMP, 1,017 Indigenous women or girls were murdered and 164 went missing nationwide between 1980 and 2012. Of these cases, 225 remain unsolved.
Forty-seven of those killed during this time period were in the Northwest Territories. Three of those cases were unsolved at the time of the report, the same number of unsolved missing persons cases concerning Indigenous women or girls.
Similar events took place across the country on Tuesday: In Whitehorse, the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council Sisters in Spirit held their annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil, which was attended by hundreds of people, according to CBC.
Marie Speakman is a contract worker for the Dene Nation who helped organize the march. “We’re really, really here for the families, supporting them by doing this kind of work and bringing attention to them— that they’re not alone, and that their loved ones are never forgotten,” she says.
Wilbert Cook, an advisor to Chief Antoine who was also at the march, had a message for Indigenous women and girls who are living on the margins: “There are a lot of people thinking of you, whether you know it or not. So please don’t ever be afraid or intimidated: Reach out for help. Because a lot of us have been down that road of darkness before. We know what it’s like. So you’re not alone.”
The MMIWG support line is available 24 hours a day at 1-844-413-6649.