Polson teen shining light on important Native issue: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

[IMAGE: Marita Growing Thunder in her regalia.]

It’s hard to be “different” when you’re in high school. But one 17-year-old Lake County senior is stepping out of the “teenage comfort zone” to make a very adult statement about unsolved murders among Native women and girls.

Marita Growing Thunder makes most of her clothes – and that sets her apart from other students at Polson High School.

“This is how my grandmas used to dress in high school and I feel this is how I should dress”, she said.

Marita is wearing her regalia her entire senior year, not just to honor her ancestors, but also to honor other Native women and girls specifically – the thousands who’ve been murdered or who are missing across Canada and the United States.

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[Image description: A photo of my hand holding a White Sage bundle tied with white cotton string. My nails are cut short and painted a bright orange. The background is plain kraft paper. End image description.]

I don’t have a true orange shirt, so I did orange nails instead.

We honor our Residential School survivors. We remember those lost. We don’t forget. Paashpiiw niiyanaan.

On Orange Shirt Day, writer shares her grandmother’s residential school story
What Is Orange Shirt Day? Annual Event Inspired By A Girl Who Couldn’t Wear Hers


First Nations teen solves remote community’s drinking water problems

19-year-old Quentin Rae from North Spirit Lake First Nation is the key to solving a boil water advisory in place in his community for nearly as long as he has been alive.

The remote First Nation, about 800 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., has been under a boil water advisory for 14 years.

Now, a unique program spearheaded by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak, is allowing people like Quentin Rae to take the initiative and the responsibility for providing clean water in their own communities.

“I have to take care of the plant, make sure chlorine gets in the water to clean the bacteria,” said Rae with a smile during his first week on the job at the end of April.

“I just graduated last year and they gave me the job.”

The high school diploma is the prerequisite for the training provided by Keewaytinook Okimakanak that will provide Rae with his operator certificate. Once the water plant in North Spirit Lake has a certified operator, the boil water advisory can be lifted.

But the program goes beyond the training.

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'Indeed racist': Inuit want Ottawa police to suspend sergeant over online comments
'When a police officer who is suppose to be protecting us makes these remarks, it's a very big hindrance for reconciliation,' says Sytukie Joamie, a cousin of Annie Pootoogook.

It’s not good enough for Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau to say officers are human beings with biases and not suspend the sergeant who allegedly posted racist online comments about the death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, say many Inuit.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning on Thursday, Bordeleau refused to call the comments racist.

“They are indeed racist,” says Sytukie Joamie, a cousin of Pootoogook.

The fact that these comments appeared online, open to everyone, including young people, makes the act even more troubling, says Joamie.

“It’s very difficult when somebody in authority does that and does not think of the consequences.”

The officer remains on active duty, Bordeleau told Ottawa Morning Thursday, adding he doesn’t believe making racist comments is an offence that requires firing.

Joamie says if someone who worked for an Inuit organization made a racist comment, they would be suspended until a disciplinary hearing.

“It’s very odd and disturbing that the Ottawa chief of police cannot discipline his own.”  

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The Apache Sunrise Ceremony celebrates a girl becoming a woman. Girls prepare for the ritual for six months or more. During the ceremony, which can last four days, the girls sing, pray, run, and dance, often for hours without stopping. Here, a girl from the White Mountain Apache tribe in Arizona is blessed with pollen, symbolizing fertility.

Reconnecting with family after ‘Sixties Scoop’
Residential school survivor reunited with sister at Indigenous dance performance during Vancouver Olympics
By Cara McKenna

Even though he was only four years old at the time, Gordon August can clearly remember the day he was taken from his family at Sechelt Nation.

It was 1961, and Indian Agents arrived at his grandparents’ home, grabbed him by his long hair and forced him into their car.

“I remember hitting the window and crying, and my grandmother was crying,” August recalls now.

“It was a day I’ll never forget because I never knew what anger was until that day.”

August was separated from his parents, seven brothers and seven sisters, in a forced adoption that was part of an assimilative government policy now known as the Sixties Scoop.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, an estimated 20,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and adopted out, mostly to white families.

For August, it triggered many years of turbulence: he was forced to live with abusive adopted parents, spent time in a residential school, and eventually was transferred between 27 other foster families after running away at the age of 12.

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Thunder Bay police investigate officers’ alleged racist Facebook comments
The investigation marks the second internal police probe launched in Ontario this week into derogatory remarks about indigenous people

The Thunder Bay Police Service is investigating racist comments allegedly posted and promoted online by its officers, marking the second internal police probe launched in Ontario this week into derogatory remarks about indigenous people.

The comments, which appeared on the Chronicle Journal’s Facebook page earlier this month, stemmed from a letter-to-the-editor by Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler regarding an allegation that TBPS officers had verbally assaulted a facilitator delivering cross-cultural training earlier this year.

“Give your head a shake Alvin Fidder. I think it’s too foggy to see the truth,” a Facebook user named Rob Steudle wrote on Sept. 17. On Sept. 18, the user followed up by adding: “Natives are killing natives and it’s the white mans fault natives are drunk on the street and its white mans fault natives are homeless and its white mans fault and now natives are lying about how they are treated by white men an explanation is given and it’s the white men who are lying. Well let’s stop giving the natives money and see how that goes.” A Facebook user named Jeff Saunders “liked” the Sept. 18 comment.

In a statement Thursday, the TBPS said a number of comments posted online on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 are the subject of a Police Services Act investigation by the force’s professional standards unit. “It is alleged that these comments had the involvement of members of the Thunder Bay Police Service,” the statement said, noting the remarks were brought to the force’s attention by a local APTN reporter. “These types of comments are not acceptable. They do not reflect the values of the Thunder Bay Police Service. We would like to apologize to our indigenous community for the hurt these comments may cause.”

No officers are named in the statement, and it is unclear how many members are potentially involved. Investigators have not confirmed that the Facebook accounts are linked to TBPS constables named Rob Steudle and Jeff Saunders, or that they were in control of their accounts when the comments were posted. The Facebook profiles suggest the two users are TBPS officers, and there are TBPS constables with those names on a recent public-sector salary list. Attempts to reach the users through Facebook were unsuccessful.

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Hey guys, I decided to write her a song for Halsey’s 22nd birthday so here it goes:

She’s not your typical americana
her voice is restless and unapologetic
fuelled with the marijuana
she’s a queen but not one of drama
the path is dark
like the densest coal
there might be demons but
she’s in control
you’d think her crazy 
for describing the contents of her soul
but she’s really a savior
her heart is made of gold
Ashley Please assure me it will be ok
Ashley it feels like you’re never afraid
I know you’re in Badlands
but those mountains they will fade away
Her hair’s a rainbow
it changes everyday
Her eyes flash and sparkle
I would never be in her way
Tell me your life story
did you really inhabit all those streets?
you said you’d bring champagne
but why is it all in your sink?
I’ll hold your cold hand
and say you ain’t no no machine
cheer up and move on
but stay away from the gasoline
Ashley who’s been haunting you these days?
Ashley don’t give a fuck about what they say
Labels don’t define you
please live your own way
Ashley you’ll have your own kingdom one day
Sweet hurricane
please tell me it will be okay