“An Open Appeal to Everyone I know” from Lee Maracle

“If you provide time, space, safety, and consistency, whoever your participants are, be they young or old, they will move into expressing authentic self. Once you can do that you can express stories about yourselves and about others.” (Columpa Bobb, Artistic Director, Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program)

Aboriginal Arts Program (photo credit: AAMTP)

An open appeal to everyone I know

There is a program in Winnipeg, Manitoba called the Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program [AAMTP] that serves the most underprivileged demographic in Winnipeg – Aboriginal children. I have witnessed AAMTP’s work with these children. Under the direction of Columpa Bobb, Artistic Director, they alongside veteran writers developed the play for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Launch in Winnipeg, Manitoba. [for a clip from the Moving Gallery follow this link: http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/scene/other/2012/05/31/columpa-c-bob/.]  At AATMP these young children acquire writing skills, performance arts skills, video and film making skills and are transformed from being underprivileged victims into children and youth who are confident and powerful good citizens. Unlike many programs for children, this one is free. The children of the North End in Winnipeg cannot afford tuition or even bus fares. Cultural Connection for Aboriginal Youth funds about half the cost of the program. These funds connected to Cultural Connection for Aboriginal Youth are in jeopardy. This means Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship is at risk of closing its doors, unless we can raise enough bridge funding. Manitoba Theatre for Young People cannot bridge the gap while the funds are up in the air.  [For CBC interview with Columpa Bobb regarding the freeze, follow this link: http://www.cbc.ca/player/radio/local+shows/manitoba/information+radio+MB/ID/2255434978/?sort=mostRecent]

Desperate for their program two of the children tried to help save it: “There was a beautiful little moment when two young girls from a grade 5 and 6 class held a little bake sale and raised $130.00 to try and save their program.” [Columpa Bobb, Artistic Director, AATMP] If our kids can do that, surely we can do something too.

I know some people. Some of you are close friends, some are family, some are colleagues, some I barely know, some have money, most don’t, but all of you have heart and so I am asking each of you to send $25.00 to Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program and send this appeal to two friends to keep the doors to the program open in the fall. I want my readership, those who have told me “they feel so inspired, empowered by my work”, to contribute as well. Our children need the empowerment and inspiration of Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentoring Program. Please send a note of well-wishing for our children to Columpa C. Bobb, Artistic Director, and send your cheque or money order to:

Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program
195 Young St.
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 3S8

Lee Maracle speaking at First Voices! First Women Speak! gathering in Ottawa, unceded Algonquin Territory on August 24, 2012

Lee Maracle

Lee Maracle is a writer, activist and performer from the Stó:lō nation located in the area now known as British Columbia. She is currently the Aboriginal Writer-in-Residence for First Nations House, and an instructor in the Aboriginal Studies Department at the University of Toronto. Lee is one of the founders of the En’owkin International School of Writing in Penticton, BC, and Cultural Director of the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto. She mentors young people on personal and cultural healing and reclamation. (from CBC 8th Fire)

For more info about Lee Maracle and her books: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/70695.Lee_Maracle

About the Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program: http://www.mtyp.ca/aboriginal-arts.cfm

Original Appeal Letter by Lee Maracle:

Feb 14 – Day of Justice: Rally for Sisters in Spirit

Monday February 14, noon-1:30pm
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Algonquin Territory
(Facebook page)

Also events in Vancouver and Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal

Come out and show support for the survival of the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) unprecedented Sisters in Spirit campaign (SIS), which, since it’s inception in 2004, has worked to raise awareness about violence against Native women and girls in Canada–namely, those who have gone missing or been murdered.

SIS not only compiled a data for over 583 cases of missing and murdered Native women in five years time, but also identified key patterns integral to understanding the systemic nature of the violence: media neglect or racial bias, police racism or negligence, victimization of Native women by the Justice system, and governmental apathy and enforcement of cycles of poverty for Native communities, to name a few. In a relatively short period of time, SIS also managed to raise the profile of the issue in the media and in the minds of the population at large, while providing indispensable support to the families of victims and creating a cross-country network.

This October 86 communities organized the 5th annual memorial Sisters in Spirit March and Vigil, including one in Nicaragua.

In spite of this progress, and the ongoing collection of new data (indeed, grassroots groups have put the number of missing and murdered women much closer to 2000), the government has held SIS in funding limbo for the past 8 months, ever since the release of Canada’s 2010 budget back in March, when $10 million was promised to “address the issue of missing and murdered Native women.” It wasn’t until November 2010 that the government finally made the announcement that confirmed the worst fears of many activists, organizers, and even opposition MPs: the money would not go to fund SIS research, but would instead fulfill the government’s new idea of safety for women, and include requirements for enhanced police power: amendments to the Criminal Code to allow police to wiretap without warrants in emergencies and obtain multiple warrants on a single application. This will not only increase the likelihood of criminalization of women, Native communities, and other vulnerable sectors of the population, but will be expected to operate without the backbone of research and data collection. Add to this the historical and ongoing relationship of distrust between many Native communities and police, who are themselves implicated in a number of documented violent altercations with Native women. Gladys Tolley, for instance, was killed by the Surete du Quebec in 2001 and no one was ever brought to justice. Her daughter Bridget Tolley has pushed for an independent investigation for years and was recently refused.

ENOUGH is ENOUGH!! We will not stand for the continued stripping down of First Nations programs essential to the physical safety and mental and emotional health of Native women and Native communities, as we have seen earlier this same year with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and First Nations University.



Volunteers needed!

We are looking for volunteers who would like to help out on the Hill, February 14th from noon to 1:30 pm (shorter if windchill warning in effect).

There are a number of tasks available:

– Handing out rally signs
– Handing out memorial armbands
– Being a part of our human billboard (by holding 1 of 19 letters to send a clear message to Stephen Harper)
– Helping to coordinate the human billboard on the steps of the Hill
– Taking photos/video of the event (to be posted online afterwards)

If you are interested in volunteering please email Kristen at familiesofsistersinspirit@gmail.com

In love and resistance!