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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: An Interview with Gail Paul
~ Russ Letica
Gail Paul, a Dakota woman living in Woodstock
First Nation, New Brunswick, Canada, will be
Whisper n Thunder's Gathering of Voices
Keynote Speaker Saturday, November 2, 2019
in Phoenix, AZ. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register
for this free event.
The event will be hosted by Whisper n Thunder and the Arizona Faith Network. Join us as she shares about the horrendous epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Ms. Paul is past President of the Indigenous Women's Association of the Wabanaki Territories and is a committed advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as LGBTQ people.
RL: Gail Tell our readers a little bit about your self? Who you are and where you are from?
GP: The short story is that I am a resilient 60s scoop survivor. This means that I spent my life in and out of foster care, making it back with my family. Right now, I am transitioning my life to accompany my need for a more gentler lifestyle. I grew up mostly in Saskatchewan Canada. I live with my husband and have 4 children, 2 grown and 2 teens for the past 28 years, in Woodstock First Nation New Brunswick Canada: In the unceded territory of the Wulastok people.
I am Dakota, and follow my traditional matricentric lifestyle. I am a Registered Nurse and a Non-Violent Crisis Instructor for my community. I also am the Community Jurisdiction coordinator for Woodstock First Nation Child and Family Services.
RL: Native Women's Association of Canada - what is it, what is its purpose?
GP: NWAC is an advocate for indigenous women and gender diverse people. They seek to ensure the social and cultural needs of indigenous women and gender diverse people remain a priority in the colonial systems. I am the past interim President of NWAC, and now NWAC has a recently elected New President Lorraine Whitman. I wish them the very best and I hope the future holds well for them.
RL: When did you become President of the organization and what is your priority mission?
GP: I served as interim President for 2 months, prior to that I was 1st Vice President for 9 months. My terms have ended and I look forward to new vistas! My personal priority mission is to hold the government accountable to the findings of the MMIWG inquiry. I will continue to intervene and advocate when and where needed. Canada has committed genocide and it's time for justice, safety and security. How do we do that? The calls for Justice!
RL: Can you explain what the Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) was?
GP: In the beginning of this tragedy, no one really knew, until NWAC developed the first list of 60+ Indigenous women, it grew from there. The liberal government had no choice but to call for an inquiry. The numbers were staggering. The end result, Canada committed Genocide.
RL: Can you give our readers a brief Summary of what the MMIW Report is?
GP: There are volumes of material, thousands of pages. Many stories, it is retraumatizing for many families. The most important that should remain the focus are the families. Healing for them. JUSTICE for them. Secondly, read the Calls for Justice, they are based on principles for change. There are calls for government, industries, institutions, services, and partnerships. And finally calls to all Canadians. 261 in total. This will change the face of Canada.
RL: What in your opinion needs to transpire to protect Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirited?
GP: Our warriors to step up. Put away the alcohol, the opiates. Understand your history and herstory. The real one, not the colonized version. I personally believe and many agree, the education system had a big role to play. Above all, respect the women. We have the connection to our first mother. We give life, we hold sacred.
RL: Man Camps has been identified as a contributing factor in MMIW, can you explain what these camps are?
GP: They are camps on the outskirts of resource project that house male workers. Resource extraction makes an indigenous community unsafe. We hear and read stories of many women, sexually assaulted, unable to provide consent. Some found dead, nil investigations. Man camps increase truck traffic, providing transport of indigenous women and 2S LGBTQQIA to their deaths, or to a life of trafficking.
RL: How do you foresee Indigenous Leadership being part of the solution?
GP: I hope for a transition from the colonial governance to a more traditional approach. Respecting the matri-centric ways of families and communities. I see them transitioning. It took us 500 years to get to where we are, and i believe that the leadership is doing their best with what they have to work with. We don't have time to waste. As with all healing, an acknowledgement of the problem must exist. And it has began. I only hope its not too late.