Indigenous peoples honour murdered and missing women on February 14
Megan Helin // Contributor.
Each year, when February 14 draws near, bouquets of red roses line the stores’ shelves. Boxes of heart-shaped chocolates are given to one’s Valentine, a translation of “love” for many. A culture worsened as it is perpetuated in the media, self-worth determined by secret admirers and rose petals, now shared for likes and reposts.
Unbeknownst and under-recognized, another event is held on the same day. Friday, Feb. 14 will mark the 29th annual Women’s Memorial March (WMM)—a day in which Indigenous peoples honour the murdered and missing women that they carry in their hearts all year round. People march in solidarity on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. The Women’s Memorial March gives people the opportunity to come together and grieve the loss of women and girls in the Downtown Eastside.
“For Indigenous people, we celebrate and honour not only the women in our lives and our community, but our families on a daily basis,” explained David Kirk, Indigenous faculty advisor and instructor at Capilano University. From the Stó:lō Nation, Kirk proudly self-identifies as Indigenous and two-spirited. “For Indigenous people, women are our warriors. It’s remembering how strong and powerful women in our communities are. How important they are,” he said.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “love” as a “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based upon sexual desire; affection and tenderness felt by lovers; affection based upon admiration, benevolence, or common interests.” One could argue that the definition above is secular, colonized even. Does Indigeneity shape how one views and practices “love”?
Love can be given every day in many ways. Kirk reflected on how he was raised, which translated into the love he gives. “You need to honour your loved ones (whoever that may be) all the time, not just one day a year,” he said. It can be an act as small as what Kirk did over winter break: checking in on his neighbour who had just undergone surgery. He noted that his offer to give her a ride surprised the woman, which is evidence of a society wrapped up in themselves. When love is given, it is too unfamiliar to receive.
On “Valentine’s Day,” communities of Indigenous peoples and allies will gather and march to the beat of their traditional songs. To honour, give freely, and stand beside someone to help lift them when they need support. The air poignant with sacred ceremonial medicines, and also a distinct wave of cathartic emotions. We will march to honour and call for justice on that day, but the drum beat of blood memory will carry in hearts and spirits all year round for generations to come.
Regardless of race, gender, or sexuality or whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day, attending the annual Women’s Memorial March (WMM) in the Downtown Eastside this Feb. 14 is not only welcomed but highly encouraged. Respectfully, with honour and love, the public may join at approximately 11:30 am at the front of Carnegie Hall at the corner of Main and Hastings.
For more information, visit the Women’s Memorial March website.