This is not an Oscars post.
Yes, I think it is great that Cate Blanchett spoke about the importance of films that centre on women. Yes, I’m thrilled that Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress. But I don’t have anything smart and insightful to say about the Oscars. Not this year.
My mind is still with last week’s news.
In case you haven’t heard, last week the family, friends, and community members of Loretta Saunders learned that she had indeed been murdered. Loretta was an Inuk woman from Labrador. She was studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. I have mostly learned about Loretta through the excruciating writing by her thesis supervisor, Dr. Darryl Leroux. After Loretta went missing on February 13th her family alerted police and community members in Halifax began postering. Leroux wrote a mediation on Loretta’s thesis work specifically, and more generally on the incredible urgency of her work more generally. You can read it here.
Last week Loretta’s body was found in the median of the TransCanada Highway in New Brunswick.
Leroux managed to write another incredible and excruciating post about Loretta and her work shortly after her body was found on February 26th. You can read it in full here. She was writing an honours thesis on the pernicious erasure of Indigenous women in Canada. She was writing about the murder of Aboriginal women in Canada. She was writing about the ways in which Canada is structured to not only marginalize Indigenous peoples, it is also structured to fundamentally teach non-Indigenous subjects to simply not see this day-to-day violence.
I am devastated and I am angry. You should be too. We all should be in Ottawa with Cheryl Maloney and the rest of the Native Women’s Association demanding an immediate and full-scale inquiry into this country’s repugnant treatment of Indigenous peoples.
Why has this not happened already? Leroux articulates his thoughts beautifully, so I’ll cite him here:
What I do know is that our society has discarded indigenous women and girls in much the same manner for generations. These people were playing out a script that we all know intimately, but never acknowledge.
It’s our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing — theft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos.
It is a recipe for disaster for indigenous peoples, and especially indigenous women. Who suffers most when access to land, to the ecological order at the basis of most indigenous societies, is limited, controlled, or outright eliminated? Is that not what’s at the basis of a settler society like our own, eliminating indigenous peoples’ relationship to the land (and/or their actual bodies), so that can we plunder it for our gain?
All the while, through trickery and deceit, we convince our children that indigenous peoples are to blame for their condition, that through no fault of our own, they simply don’t understand how to live well in society.
When I discuss these issues with my non-indigenous students in an open, honest, and non-judgmental manner, I am continuously disappointed, though no longer surprised by their lack of knowledge.
Independent acts of activism are useless when they are not grounded in community and contextualized by a broader goal of dismantling colonial state power.