This webpage and the links and documents within it contain discussions of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, violations of bodily integrity and genocide, which may be triggering.
For further resources, crisis lines, toolkits and shelter contacts, NWAC has created a Resource ‘Zine with regional contact information.
If you are experiencing crisis, you may phone the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is committed to developing concrete actions to end the cycle of violence that affects Indigenous communities – particularly violence which may lead to the disappearance or death of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. NWAC advocates on behalf of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people to provide adequate long-term funding for healing and support services for families and communities. Ultimately, strength and resilience can be fostered by providing families and communities with a place to heal and receive support.
The United Nations defines violence against women as gender-based violence that can result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering. Violence can happen in all cultures, religions and communities, but due to Canada’s history of colonization, Indigenous women face higher rates of violence than non-Indigenous women. Once held in high regard as leaders and givers of life, Indigenous women are now devalued because of their race and gender. This has led to disproportionately higher rates of experienced violence, spousal assault, family violence and sexual assault towards Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
Honouring Indigenous Women
For many years, Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people have been working to reclaim their traditional roles, which have drastically changed since colonization. NWAC created the Honouring Indigenous Women Toolkit as an educational resource to help heal Indigenous communities, and address the need to empower and restore honour and respect for Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. The toolkit can be used by Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people to understand the traditional roles of their respected, valued and honoured ancestors.
The toolkit and accompanying guide can also be used for youth to learn traditional values and help foster a sense of pride for having Indigenous heritage. It identifies many of the changes necessary to achieve reconciliation, healing, respect and honour, and helps youth connect to their hearts, spirits and senses of self. Some of the topics revolve around the traditional roles of women, defining respect and honour, valuing one’s self, mindfulness, sustainability in culture, 2SLGBTQQIA, MMIWG and more. Alongside the support of this resource, communities can heal through equality, respect and honour. We hope to encourage future generations to take pride in who they are.
You Are Not Alone
The legacies of colonization such as residential schools, the 60s scoop, and socio-economic conditions like poverty, and sexism, racism and discrimination have all played major roles in the breakdown of healthy Indigenous families and communities. This is especially noticeable in the high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people, as they face life-threatening gender-based violence, and experience more violent crimes than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women who find themselves in abusive relationships often times lack the means or ability to remove themselves from their situation.
You Are Not Alone: A Toolkit for Aboriginal Women Escaping Domestic Violence, provides Indigenous women with community safety planning resources to address domestic violence. The toolkit provides understanding and knowledge of various topics relating to family violence, background knowledge on the impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities, and community safety plans to help women, girls and gender-diverse people identify their support networks and strategies for leaving an abusive situation.
Every person deserves to feel respected, safe and happy in their day-to-day lives. Many women, girls and gender-diverse people struggle with these same fears and beliefs, and have managed to build healthy, safe and happy lives for themselves and their children by leaving violent relationships. You have the ability to change your environment – you are not alone.
Sisters in Spirit
Sisters in Spirit (SIS) began as a research, education and policy initiative led by Indigenous women. The goal was to conduct research and raise awareness surrounding the alarming rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada. Through developed databases, SIS tracks and investigates the causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. SIS also works closely with families to document their lived experiences, adopt their recommendations, and help restore the memory of their loved ones. Each October 4, a vigil is organized to honour the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Family members, community members and concerned citizens gather to raise awareness and provide support to those who have lost a loved one.
As a result of SIS and NWAC’s partnership, multiples resources and activities are now established to help raise awareness, guide healing and reconciliation, and end the marginalization that Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people face. These projects include Voices of Our Sisters in Spirit: A Report to Families and Communities and NWAC’s Faceless Doll Project. With the intention of moving towards social change, these projects are meant to educating the public in raising awareness regarding the ongoing marginalization that Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people face.
Final Report of Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
On June 3, 2019, the Final Report from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released. In that report, the Inquiry made 231 Calls for Justice. It also concluded that the acts of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada constitutes “genocide.”
On June 21, 2019, seven years after the initial launch of the Faceless Dolls Project, NWAC launched Phase Two entitled, “Putting a Face on Justice: From Calls for Justice to Action.” In light of the Final Report on MMIWG and to honour their lives and stories, NWAC decided to give a voice to the voiceless women by putting faces on the faceless dolls.
The project is meant to encourage youth in classrooms across the country to engage in activities designed to help them connect to their hearts, spirits and senses of self. NWAC’s Faceless Dolls Project consists of a bag with a toolkit, guide, colouring book and pencils, coloured felt sheets, doll patterns and accessories to create dolls — all the materials necessary to give a face to the once faceless.
- Engage with communities through a culturally relevant gender based analysis to address and end the systemic violence that impacts Indigenous women, girls, gender-diverse people and their families and communities.
- Provide Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people with the option and opportunity of removing themselves from abusive relationships through community and network support.
- Enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.