Kneeling for missing, murdered indigenous women

Many people have seen the kneels that National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has taken during the national anthem to protest racial oppression and police brutality in the United States.

Since Kaepernick’s gesture gained widespread attention in late August, teams at various levels in several sports have followed his example.

The entire Tommies men’s basketball squad was among the latest teams to do that Saturday night, but as a way to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women and children in Canada.

The idea for a St. Thomas University sports team to follow suit came from aboriginal players Jeremy Speller of Gesgapegiag First Nation in Quebec and Quentin Sock of Elsipogtog First Nation in northeastern New Brunswick.

Speller said before the game that the move was an effort to educate Canadians on what he said is a crisis involving the 1,000 First Nations women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered in recent decades.

“Quentin and I had volunteered with the Red Shawl Campaign that was going on a month or so ago,” he said.

“We thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring awareness to the issue where [our games] provide our biggest platform and audiences.”

The entire Tommies men's basketball team kneeled during "O Canada" at the home opener Saturday night to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and children in Canada. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ
The entire Tommies men’s basketball team kneeled during “O Canada” at the home opener Saturday night to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and children in Canada. Photo: Nathan DeLong/The AQ

The Red Shawl Campaign was held at the University of New Brunswick in October to honour missing and murdered aboriginal women and their families.

Imelda Perley, the UNB elder-in-residence, said in a news release at the time that the red shawl signifies healing for victims’ families and is a symbol of protection and what a young girl earns on her way to becoming a woman.

Speller and Sock held a red shawl while their teammates and coaches took a knee during “O Canada” at Saturday’s men’s basketball home opener against the University of Kings College Blue Devils at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym.

Initially, Speller said, he and Sock planned to sit during the national anthem at STU’s first game at the Ken Gould Invitational Tournament last month.

But he said there ended up being confusion between the team and the university about how to approach the gesture.

“It was bad timing, and it just needed to have some better communication in order to get it done,” said Speller.

The pamphlet to which Speller was referring was included in the programs with each team’s rosters that were provided to fans as they arrived for the game.

Before the contest began, Keyaira Gruben, the STU Students’ Union indigenous representative, addressed the players and crowd about the issue at hand.

“It’s important to note that violence in aboriginal communities is not traditional,” she said.

“It’s time we stop looking at indigenous issues as social and psychological but instead acknowledge the systemic racism and assimilative policy that creates those problems for us.”

Gruben also said the national anthem is a symbol of Canada, a nation that includes many indigenous peoples.

After Gruben’s speech, the anthem was played. Members of the crowd, the UKC players and coaches all stood at attention, while the Tommies sat.

A moment of silence took place after the anthem for victims of violence in indigenous communities.

Tommies head coach Scott MacLeod said after the game that Saturday’s pre-game ceremony was an emotional one.

“It was pretty overwhelming at times,” he said.

“It was a wonderful statement for everyone who came to support our aboriginal players.”

  • Show Comments (7)

  • Raven Mineault

    Thank you ♡

  • Stanley Evans

    Very moving. No one deserves to be murdered.
    But who is murdering aboriginal women? And who is murdering settler women?
    Aboriginal men, and settler men.
    Usually family members, or men known to the victim.
    Racism sometimes but most times not.
    We all have a lot of sorting out to do.

    • Kym Guno-Good

      How truly wonderful and uplifting, I am a Nisga’a grandmother who has lost a beloved sister to violence. We have watched over the young girls in our family, taught them that they are our beautiful Ma’jaga Lei (flowers). Not to allow anyone to besmirch their heritage, to walk with their heads held high.

  • Evon

    Thank you men who were brave enough to stand kneel in a attempt to rise the ones who are lost and or forgotten. Clifford Olsen, mainly young males who most were native. Picton killer mostly native women. Most settler women true are killed by abusive spouses, or persons known to them or via sexual assaults. Most native women killed via enticement because of subjectivity selection, lesser cases of native men on native women murder though it does occurs but no where to the level of 1,000, and they are still collecting names as well. And the murders and deaths of native persons are at a execrated rate even as we speak here and now look at Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Ontario. Most men murdered by other men, and or wives in a abusive situation or protection of children and or self. Body dumps mostly if not all native women IE, Edmonton. Racial selection of sexually deviant males, with absolute violence with either intentional murder or mishap (thought they did kill) murderer, with surviving victims. Nothing to sort out as all I say is proven and factual. There is many cases of reported assaults to none native sex trades workers, assaults not mass killings on the scale of native women. Is there a way in which that can be sorted out? It is ravaging attacks on native women, how can that be sorted out in comparison to assaults where as a result death occurs, how does one expect to sort that out. If some one is missing for years on years, what result can one think has occurred missing but not considered murder as on body found as yet? How does one sort between what is alive or deceased, how do you expect to sort out the missing from the dead? As on the law books how long does one have to be missing to be considered dead? How does one sort that out? How do you explain or justify that to the hundreds of thousands of persons related to the missing or murdered, how can you sort that out for them. AS there is hundreds of thousands of person who are related to or know of the missing and murdered, how shall we sort through that? I can go on and on. But I say yes and more power to the one’s who took a knee, thank you and all others who shall stand kneel or what ever to bring light to the issues of the plights of the murdered and missing. AS when you take a knee, invasion you lifting the murdered and missing up so they are not alone. Than k you, thank you and thank for all who support and wish to bring truth and ignorance to light and so it shall not over shadow generations to come.

  • G. Brumfield

    activism to end violence against Native women- now that’s something I’ll kneel for.

  • Dan Mccabe

    good thought take the knee before of after the anthem could kill two birds with one stone

  • Monika Stelzl

    Thank you.

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