National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls comes to Sagkeeng

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Giigewigamig Traditional Healing Centre opens its doors to welcome grieving families

MEDIA RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 27, 2017

Photo | CBC

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, MANITOBA — July 25 marked the inaugural first day that the Giigewigamig Traditional Healing Centre, located inside the Pine Falls Health Complex in Manitoba, was used by First Nation community members for healing, as the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) began its work in the province. The centre, located within the town of Pine Falls on unceded Sagkeeng traditional territory, is independently operated through a joint collaboration of four local First Nations – Sagkeeng, Black River, Hollow Water and Bloodvein, under the Giigewigamig First Nation Health Authority.

The Giigewigamig (pronounced Kee-gay-ga-mik) Traditional Healing Centre, after recently celebrating its Grand Opening, opened its doors Tuesday to Sagkeeng members, who requested that Giigewigamig host grieving families who chose to engage with the National Inquiry on MMIWG. The inquiry was invited by community leaders to build relationships with Sagkeeng First Nation families affected by the loss of their mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers to violence.

It was an intense day of grieving, healing and sharing – for a community that has faced the largest number of missing and murdered women and girls in the country.

“We need to do everything we possibly can to reposition our Grandmothers in a place of honour and influence,” said Sagkeeng elder Dave Courchene, opening the circle alongside the chief of the community, Derrick Henderson.

Sagkeeng grandmother Aldeen Mason, who helps lead the Giigewigamig centre, conducted a prayer and offered a smudging ceremony to the 50 people gathered in the round traditional healing room at the healing centre before a sharing circle began. A star blanket stitched with photos of the missing and murdered of the community lay in the centre of the room, surrounded by dream catchers that also encircled the photos of ones grieved.

Following the sharing circle, lawyers, health workers and community relations staff with the inquiry made themselves available for one-on-one meetings as part of a national inquiry that has continued to generate mixed feelings among community members.

Courchene, one of the community elders who leads Giigewigamig, recognized the community members and families who were given the honour to be the first people to come inside their place in the hospital. He encouraged those gathered to find the root cause of what had happened, and to return to the beginning – remembering original instructions that the people had been given by the Creator.

“Our law of Ogichi Tibakonegaywin – the Great Binding Law – has been broken. We have to go back to the beginning. The beginning is Spirit.”

“The people and government of Canada have a shared responsibility to treat people properly and to take care of the land,” said Courchene. “And so do we. Will we provide our knowledge of our identity to our children?”

Courchene added, “Protest, conflict and anger will do nothing. That is not the way of the Creator. We will not move forward if we are angry and bitter. We must move forward with love and kindness. Even toward those who have perpetrated injustice toward us. We must love them and be kind to them. That is the spirituality of our people – to be kind to each other and to the land. That is how they will learn and how we will heal.”

Media Contact: giigewigamig@gmail.com

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