Featured

Canada has acknowledged its genocide of Indigenous women.

When will the U.S. follow suit?

Canada has acknowledged its genocide of Indigenous women.

After a two-plus year inquiry, Canada has acknowledged that its epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women amounts to genocide.

In 2016, the Canadian government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) to examine the disproportionate number of Indigenous women who have been killed or have disappeared in Canada. On June 3, 2019, The inquiry commissioners presented their final report—1,200 pages filled with stories and evidence showing that "persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause" of this epidemic.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller of the Mistawasis First Nation didn't mince words as she presented the findings to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Despite their different circumstances and backgrounds, all of the missing and murdered are connected by economic, social and political marginalization, racism, and misogyny woven into the fabric of Canadian society," explained Buller. "The hard truth is that we live in a country whose laws and institutions perpetuate violations of fundamental rights, amounting to a genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people."

Trudeau acknowledged the report's full findings at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, B.C. the following day. "We recognized the need for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and we have commissioners who came back with findings of fact and with calls to action," he said. "We thank them for their work, we applaud their work, and we accept their findings—including that what happened amounts to genocide."

The report includes 231 Calls to Justice directed at governments at all levels, as well as institutions, organizations, and everyday Canadians. Commissioner Buller says these action calls are not mere recommendations, but "legal imperatives." How effectively and expediently those calls to justice are implemented remains to be seen.

While arguably a step in the right direction, the Inquiry has been beleaguered by disagreements about approaches and distrust from some Indigenous communities.

From its outset, the public inquiry faced challenges. One of the original five commissioners resigned over disagreements over how the inquiry would be conducted. Some Indigenous communities did not feel adequately represented by the commission, and some families complained that their calls to the commission to share their stories went unanswered. The Native Women's Association of Canada issued periodic report cards on which commitments of the commission were being met and which weren't, and each report card was a mixed bag.

Conducting an inquiry commissioned by a colonial government about a deeply painful indigenous reality was never going to be an easy task. The process opened wounds and recalled heinous historic oppression for many. At the same time, having an official record and recognition of the lived reality of Indigenous people is a historic step. It's what comes next that is the question.

"The report has been triggering for many, as have the reactions to it," says Alison Tedford, an Indigenous woman from the Kwakiutl nation who lives in B.C. "There are deep seated feelings that come with these truths and reactions will vary widely because of the diversity of experiences represented. It will take a great many voices to talk this through."

"What resonated for me was the witness concerns about the failure to implement existing recommendations," Tedford told Upworthy, "and how that represents a lack of political will for change. This history of inaction makes it difficult to hold hope that these calls to justice will be implemented either and that is an uncomfortable feeling to have as an Indigenous woman, that those who could contribute to a safer today and tomorrow for you and your family might choose not to, even as they acknowledge this is genocide. There has been an erosion of trust."

Other Indigenous women have expressed similar apprehension about the ultimate outcome of the Inquiry. Indigenous writer and teacher Andrea Landry wrote in a Chatelaine op-ed, "The fact that the recommendations made within the inquiry are not legally enforceable, nor legally binding, goes hand in hand with the reconciliation agenda of the government today; a facade with limited space for permanent social change for Indigenous peoples. It can also be seen as the government using the emotional labour of the families involved that will, in the end, maintain colonial supremacy and the continued exploitation of the land and the bodies of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples."

The enormity of the report and the sweeping calls to justice speak to the vastness of the issue, as well as what it will take to make real movement forward.

"Our collective history and present reality of trauma is laid bare in this multitude of words," says Tedford. "It is noted there is a role for everyone. Oppression of this magnitude took an immense amount of collaboration and an equal force of sheer will and determination to make this a safe place at last will be needed to effect meaningful change, in my opinion."

"There are calls to justice not just to government agencies, health care providers, educators but also to everyday Canadians. There are ways each person can contribute to the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLBGTQQIA people and that's empowering. Immediate, dramatic, paradigm shift—these words are used to describe the urgency and scale of required changes. It will be a challenge, and I hope Canada is up for it."

What does all of this mean for the U.S., which has a similar colonial history and a MMIW movement of its own?

Though Canada is by no means perfect, there's a lot the U.S. could learn from our northern neighbors when it comes to acknowledging Native communities and the impact colonialism has had—and continues to have—on Indigenous communities.

I was struck by how each session at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver began with an acknowledgment that we were meeting on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish Nations people. Then I learned that such land acknowledgments are common in B.C. I've maybe seen that done once in the U.S., and only at a small event. Land acknowledgment is not a huge thing, but it's something. (There's a Native Land App you can use to see whose ancestral lands you're on at any given time.)

Indigenous voices in the U.S. have been speaking out about the MMIW epidemic in our country for years, and it's still unknown to many. We have had no national inquiry commissioned, and it's hard to imagine one coming during the current administration. However, there are a couple of legislative initiatives addressing MMIW that we as citizens can lean on our congressional representatives to support.

The first is Savanna's Act, a bill that bolsters the data tracking of missing and murdered Native Americans, standardizes law enforcement and justice protocols, and requires the Department of Justice to provide training and technical assistance to tribes and law enforcement to implement new protocols.

The second is the Not Invisible Act of 2019, which would increase intergovernmental coordination to identify and combat violent crime on native lands and against native peoples.



Further, we can follow grassroots initiatives like the Red Ribbon Alert Project, which offers an alert system for when a Native American woman goes missing, and perhaps most importantly, educate ourselves on issues Indigenous communities face and the role our institutions and governments play in those issues. We need to understand how the oil, gas, and other extraction industries affect human trafficking in Native American communities, for example.

Historically, our nation has much to atone for, but there are also immediate actions we can take to help eliminate an issue Indigenous women and girls are facing right here, right now.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


Getting people who don't suffer from anxiety issues to understand them is hard.

People have tried countless metaphors and methods to describe what panic and anxiety is like. But putting it into the context of a living nightmare, haunted house style, is one of the more effective ways I've ever seen it done.

Brenna Twohy delivered the riveting poetic analogy recently in Oakland, starting out by going off about some funny "Goosebumps" plots. It's lovely, funny, sweet, and relatable, and it's totally worth the short time to watch.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."