My Auntie called me today leaving a voicemail, Helen call me back when you get this.
Auntie never calls. Auntie never leaves voicemails.
I called her back in the grocery line up wondering what could be happening that would warrant this.
“I have to work out some things. There’s something I want you to write about..” she says.
I know that this is leading to a deeper and harder conversation. Auntie has never requested that I write about something either.
I brace myself as the man in front of me moves his grocery cart forward and I scoot up a few inches.
The Walking With Our Sisters Exhibit has been in Taylor, B.C. for the past week. The beaded vamps are a testament of loss but also an amazing tangible example of the love that we have for our sisters and our Indigenous women. One who does any kind of beadwork can see the vamps and understand the thousands and thousands of hours of love that were put into these pieces to honour their missing and murdered loved ones.
I have been helping out off and on for the past week for a few hours here and there. I weaved in and out of my own process while being there. I wasn’t going to write about it as I am not an official part of the process but wanted to be able to help out yet my own emotions have been a rollercoaster this past week.
Auntie said that she took her youngest daughter to see it yesterday, her daughter, my cousin, is 13 years old.
“I went back and forth with taking her to see it. I didn’t know if I should but I always warn her about the dangers out there and the things that can happen and she always thinks I’m making stuff up. So I wanted to take her to show her that it isn’t just me, but that it is a reality we live in,” Auntie explained.
“After we walked through it my daughter looked at me and said:”
I don’t think anything will happen to me but if something does happen to me, I want you to bead me a pair with bear paws on them.
Auntie starts to cry. I begin to fan the tears in my eyes as I stand in line at the grocery store. I take a deep breath as if to create space for the volume of this story. To create space for the oversized realities we as Indigenous women are faced with. To create space to feel and release the pain of little girls fathoming their death based on their ethnicity. To create space for the stories that we have to untangle and smooth out so that we can see ourselves again amongst this mess we are handed.
“I had to wonder Helen, with all of these White mothers or young White girls that come through here. Do they have to have conversations with their daughters afterwards like this? Where their babies are forced to understand that the world is not the safest place for them? Do they just get to move through it and nothing changes for them? I don’t know if I did wrong by taking her through there,” she says breaking the words up with tears.
“Oh Auntie,” I say, my voice cracking.
A deep breath. More space. Auntie is doing the work that many other Indigenous mothers are having to do all across Turtle Island. Trying to balance giving their daughters the freedom of being unencumbered by violent colonial realities so that they can live their lives but also trying to keep them safe with real world knowledge so that they can simply live.
There are no answers here. I have no answers in these spaces. I can only listen and be reminded why we do the work that we do out here to change things at community, regional, and national levels. We do it for the little girls. We do it for our daughters, our cousins, our nieces, our granddaughters, and for the little girls that we haven’t been entrusted with yet.
We have to do better. We have to keep demanding more. We have to continue to fiercely love and protect our own.
There is work to do still my sisters & brothers.
PS – I don’t have daughters yet, but I hope to one day have one.
(Photo Cred: Unknown but thank you)