Qey, n’toliwis Amanda naka ckuwapon possesom, Dakota-Sioux ehpit. Keq kil k’toliwis Emma Hassencahl-Perley, Wolastoqew ehpit.
Today, we are gathered here on unceded ancestral lands of Wolastoqiyik with heavy hearts, furious minds, and gentle spirits. We have had two young Indigenous people shot and killed by police in Wabanaki territory, in a little over a week. They were both parents.
We are here in memory and justice of Chantel Moore. She was a Tla-o-qui-aht woman and mother to a six-year-old daughter. And she was shot five times by a police officer during a wellness check in Edmundston last week. This comes on the heels of our black relatives leading protests around the world denouncing police brutality and systemic racism.
This gathering and healing walk is guided by the teachings and prayers of some of our most respected Wabanaki Elders. I’ve been advised that what we are doing is not called a protest because it is not a word found within the Wolastoqi language. Instead, we use “Ikatomone” which translates to “let’s guard” our way of life, our languages, our ceremonies, our rights to declare justice.
We gather today in silence. We gather in silence because, as skicinuwok/Indigenous peoples, we have spoken about injustice and genocide time and time again. Our languages and way of life was stripped from us, and we have been forced to use colonial languages to speak up against these injustices.
And we have. We have Recommendations from the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The MMIWG Calls to Justice. In 1996, 2007, 2015, 2019, respectively. We know what the issues are and we’ve written extensively about the solutions, but that has been complicity on behalf of Canadian governments and the public.
Canada’s system of policing does not keep skicinuwok safe. Our nations have had six police-led deaths since April. This is nothing less than a state of emergency. We have to place these losses in context. The murdering of Indigenous peoples is emblematic of long-standing and pervasive colonial violence and oppression. We can’t look away from the facts. Colonial violence and oppression looks like the apprehension of our children at rates that far exceeded the number of those who went to residential school within the child welfare system. It looks drastic overrepresentation of Indigenous people within the criminal justice system. It looks like racism within the healthcare system. It looks like the erasure of our histories, knowledges, and languages within the education system. This is what forced removal from our ancestral lands looks like.
We gather in silence because the Edmundston police force is silent.
We gather in silence because you need to hear us and we are doing this our way. As skicinuwok (Indigenous people), we will follow the ancestral wisdom of our people to stand up for justice, to sing our songs of healing, to let the sounds of our jingles heal, and to invoke all our spirit helpers to guide us.
Because we gather today in silence, does not mean that we will remain silent. In the days and weeks to come, our people will engage in advocacy-work to push back against these injustices. As we have always done. And I urge you to hold your provincial and federal governments accountable to address this state of emergency. But we are in anguish, and angry, and grieving the senseless loss of life to our nations.
Our voices will resonate strong. We will seek and demand justice, because our future children and grandchildren require it. We are sick and tired of what is happening to our people, but we must remain focused and composed during these times. We are calling upon the medicine of our ancestors to guide us, and we must be peaceful. Don’t give in to the violence and white supremacy. We must honour the lives of those we’ve lost.
Please keep in mind that we are in ceremony now. Conduct yourself accordingly.
As we proceed with this healing gathering, we ask that you refrain from recording or photography during the pipe ceremony. Hold each other accountable in this regard – if you see someone with a camera, please kindly gesture that they not use it.
Nit leyic naka psiw ntolnapemok
Amanda Myran is the Piluwitahasuwin (AVP Indigenous Engagement) at the University of New Brunswick. This speech was delivered at the Healing Walk for Chantel Moore at Fredericton City Hall on unceded Wolastoqiyik territory on June 13, 2020.