Recently during a staff workshop on Fat Oppression, the facilitator Kalamity acknowledged that we were gathering on unceded Coast Salish Territory. As an organization delivering workshops, speeches, trainings, etc. in the community WAVAW always does this as well. However Kalamity did something different afterwards, she asked us WHY it was important to acknowledge that this land is unceded, especially for an anti-violence organization. Many of us quickly responded with “because the process of colonization and the very way in which we’ve come to be on this land was stolen through violence and by creating systems that oppressed and impacted all First Peoples of Turtle Island”. This is our understanding of the legacy of colonization and this understanding is why we, as an organization, are committed to de-colonizing practice. What this means to us here at WAVAW is that we continuously find opportunities to integrate traditional ways of knowing and understanding alongside of our Feminist Anti-oppression framework.
A huge part of this de-colonizing work has been to find ways that traditional ceremony can be available for community and doing the work of ending violence against women. In the past we have held four Smudge ceremonies in the downtown east side to acknowledge the violence, racism, sexism, and classism that Aboriginal women face on a daily basis due to systemic oppression. We came together in a traditional way to ask the Creator and the community to come together and change attitudes about the sacredness of women and Aboriginal peoples.
Last year we committed to holding four Round Dances. A Round Dance is a Cree Ceremony to memorialize those that have passed on. The Round Dance is intended to be celebratory and allow the community to feast and dance with those that have moved into the spirit world so that healing can take place. It not only allows for family and community to heal, but a Round Dance also allows those in the spirit world to continue on their spirit journey in a good way.
The reality is that 1 out of every 3 women in Canada has already or will experience sexual assault during their lifetime. Sexual assault is not something that just happens and you get on with life and forget. It interrupts all aspects of our lives, it changes our world view, we have to redefine safety, we carry the shame of the violence that was enacted upon us, and the implications can be so significant that women can no longer stay on the planet and end their lives. We know that there are also well over 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in this country and that just this week the very woman who had dedicated her educational career to documenting these women’s lives has gone missing herself. These are the women we will honour this year and it is these women we will feast with, dance with, and love into their next spirit journey.
In order for us at WAVAW to continue doing this work we must care for our spirits and the spirits of those that have come before us and have gone amongst us. We cannot let the violence that touches our lives as women go unnoticed and unspoken.
Join us! Everyone is welcome, we need the four races and all genders to do this work. Feast with us! Dance with us! All you have to do is show-up sober, no ceremonial attire needed, just make sure the shoes you’re wearing can slide really well…we’ve been told you’ll have a sore hip otherwise from all that dancing! The space is wheelchair and scooter accessible and there will be lots of food. Be prepared to sit on the floor as this is the traditional way a Round Dance is run. If you have different needs please notify our staff women and we can provide you with a chair. We look forward to being in ceremony with you March 1st at 12 noon!