On June 17 and 18, University of Winnipeg faculty members Dr. Jacqueline Romanow, Department of Indigenous Studies, and Dr. Jane Barter, Department of Religion and Culture, will be hosting the Report into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited Persons (MMIWG2S) – The University Responds Conference.
This national conference, which aims to bring together scholars, activists, educators, community and family members of MMIWG2S, direct student service providers, and students, will look at how universities can address the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S.
Along with Drs. Romanow and Barter, Indigenous student researchers Christy Bird and Brenda Daniels are also coordinating the conference.
“This conference is conceived as a way to make the report again front and centre in our minds,” said Romanow. “The issues associated with MMIWG2S have not gone away – in fact the realities of pandemic life have made many of them worse. We want to relight the fire around the National Inquiry and address the recommendations from the perspective of universities.”
The conference will feature three keynote speakers:
Dr. Karine Duhamel is Anishinaabe-Métis and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Allison University, a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University, and a Master’s Degree and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Duhamel was formerly Adjunct Professor at UWinnipeg, where she developed and taught courses on the history and legacy of residential schools. She also served as Director of Research for Yerch Law Corporation, conducting research related to claims under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
From 2018 to 2019, Dr. Duhamel was Director of Research for the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S, drafting the Final Report, as well as managing the Forensic Document Review Project and the Legacy Archive. She is now a public servant working to implement the National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice across all levels of government.
Sheila North is former Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 30 northern First Nations in Manitoba. She is the first woman ever to hold this position. She is also former Chief Communications Officer for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
North ran for the position of National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2018. North is a former CTV journalist and was nominated for a Gemini Award as a CBC journalist. Her journalism has long covered MMIWG2S and, in 2019, she released a documentary on the issue, titled 1200+. For this documentary, she worked closely with family members, who shared their stories of loved ones’ disappearances.
Sandra DeLaronde is a member of Cross Lake First Nation whose roots are in the Métis settlement of Duck Bay. Throughout her distinguished career, she has made it her life work to bring attention to the situation of MMIWG2S. She served as co-chair of Manitoba’s MMIWG2S Coalition.
DeLaronde helped develop and oversee the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Scholarship, established in 2000 to honour the young woman who was murdered in The Pas in 1976.
DeLaronde is generous in sharing her knowledge and culture with others. As head woman for the Oyate Wiwanyang Wacipi (Sundance) and the Heart of the White Buffalo Moondance, she plays a vital role in strengthening Indigenous ceremony, practice, and tradition.
“We chose speakers from academic, public, and community organizations who have dedicated many, many years to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited Persons,” Romanow said. “I think that each of these distinguished speakers brings a diverse perspective — community advocacy, education, Indigenous politics, journalism, and research — that will help to engender new conversations and strategies.”
Calls for paper proposals
Romanow says they’re also inviting research papers on the themes pertaining to the Report, especially those which address Calls 11.1 and 11.2.
“What we’re really looking for is to create a forum where Indigenous scholars, community members, families, and others can come together and reimagine a world where Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited persons are not in crisis, where they are not disproportionately in danger of being murdered or to go missing, or to suffer violence,” she said.
“What can we do as academics to address the recommendations of the final report? This is the key question: what can we do, through our roles in universities across the country to dismantle the colonial and patriarchal barriers to Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited peoples’ safety, security, and happiness.”
Perspectives of universities
After this conference, Romanow hopes universities will take time to look at the ways they operate and improve services, policies, and the curriculum. She says Indigenous women have always been the heart and soul of communities and if universities really want to Indigenize, they need to make them front and centre.
Also of particular importance to this conference is attending to two-spirited experience. We look forward to hearing from the diverse voices in the two-spirited community, including Elder Albert McLeod, who will be giving the closing remarks at the conference.
Romanow also explained that bringing Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited leaders together can lead to the creation of networks to build resiliency and make changes.
“This conference is a fundamental space to welcome and empower Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited persons, so they can share their knowledge and expertise and use that as a platform to build a better future for the generations that will follow us.”
To learn more about The University Responds Conference and/or register, visit: mmiwg2s.uwinnipeg.ca