A short story by Bree Duwyn
As an Indigenous woman, I believe it is important to give attention to some of the issues that Indigenous people face every day. One of those many issues is the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women. When these women go missing, this story is a reality for them. These women are sexually, mentally and physically abused before being maliciously killed. I wanted to write this story to recognize the devastation that Indigenous women and their families endure. I hope for change and justice for those who have had their voices silenced.
“Aboriginal women are almost three times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women are.”
“The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is disproportionately high.”
“NWAC’s research indicates that, between 2000 and 2008, Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada. However, Aboriginal women make up only 3% of the female population.”
Nearly half of murder cases in NWAC’s database remain unsolved.*
*According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s fact sheet on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
There are many precious things to be treasured within our lives. For me, the most precious things are cooking with Mom, crafting beadwork with Grandmother, and listening to Papa’s stories of the universe. He liked to say we had our own. That they were filled with infinite potential, cradling our fate within the bindings and fabric of time and space. We always had the choice to change our universe if we wanted, to mold and intertwine them with any dreams or wishes we craved. Papa would be proud of mine, it hurts that I couldn’t share it with him like I had hoped, because, at just 14, my universe stopped growing.
I can still feel the chill in the air that summer night. I still hear the crickets chirping and feel the hum of an airplane flying high and far away, escaping any terror anticipated below. I still smell the wet grass and I can remember giggling innocently as fireflies danced around my face. Their glowing figures illuminating the shortcut that I had decided to take to get home before curfew. It was a hidden hunting trail that Papa had shown me, and according to him, it was the best spot to hunt rabbits. I took the rustling in the bushes for woodland creatures settling in for the night under the shelter of branches and leaves. I decided that my mind was playing tricks on me and continued down the path towards home.
I could just make out the silhouette of clothes drying along a wire and the flickering neon sign atop the gas station. I was close. Close enough to hear the rushing stream from the river nearby as I fantasized about being a fish in its waters. A fish with shimmering scales and a stream to follow to my next destination. I was close enough to home, but not close enough. Close enough to escape, but for many girls like me, we never do.
His hand was rough. It tasted of dirt and sandpaper when he clamped it over my mouth to prevent me from screaming. The burning scent of liquor and cigarettes clouded the air. Fear immediately filled my body as ice ran through my veins. My muffled screams were drowned out by the sound of his grunting as he struggled to contain me. “Calm down, sweetheart,” he whispered hauntingly, his chapped lips grazing the shell of my ear.
This is when the silent tears began to fall. Somehow, in that moment, I knew his voice would be the last I heard. No. I knew its voice would be the last I heard. It being the monster that tore open my dress that my Mom had made me. It being the monster that had poked and prodded at every inch of my skin to get a twisted fix. It who took my innocence, and with that, a piece of my soul that could never be recovered. It who dropped my bloodied and bruised body to the forest floor while buckling up his pants and wiping the sweat from his brow. It who continued to do his worst for days to come before the last of my tears fell and my universe, once radiant and promising in a world I was trying so desperately to liven, slipped deep into an abyss as dark as ink.
Soon, the cold was swept away by a welcomed feeling of warmth. It soothed my body and rippled across my senses, a delicate yet infectious experience. Then, as if something ignited within me, I had a renewed sight. When my vision cleared, I realized the warm feeling I was experiencing stemmed from my spirit animal, a grizzly bear. It startled me at first, but seeing it clarified my circumstance. I looked deeply into its eyes and remembered Papa telling me about the meaning behind the bear. The bear was believed to possess wondrous power of courage and grounding energy. The grizzly cocked his head and nudged his snout into the palm of my hand. Bears also act as healing guides, standing up for truth and justice. The grizzly snorted and my gaze drifted downwards.
I was not in my body anymore; I was looking down at it. On the edge of a riverbank, with the sun rising over the horizon, I spotted the pieces of my physical being strewed along the sand. I had been lazily stuffed into individual garbage bags as flies attempted to enter the poorly tied knots, so they could feast. Tufts of my dark hair peeked out from the nearest bag, gently swaying in the breeze.
Flashes of the monster plagued my vision, the guttural noises and vicious sensations that were endured, all for me to be tossed to the shore. The violence and violation of my life was now stagnant, but I knew that soon, I would be discovered. The inhumane act I endured will never leave my family. The gaping wound will never be healed in their souls, their universes will shrink, and mine will be forever silenced.