Fashion Designer Reflects on the Murdered and Missing

Indigenous fashion designer and member of the Ochapawace First Nation Tracey George Heese has used her talents to help others walk a path of healing and remembrance for missing and murdered women, girls and 2 spirited individuals.

Described by some as a genocide – the fact remains that in Canada indigenous women make up 16% of all female homicide victims, and 11% of missing women even though indigenous women only make up 4.3% of the population of Canada. As many as 4,000 can be counted among the murdered and missing.

Heese is a 60’s scoop survivor who rose to prominence on the Canadian fashion scene. using fashion as a way to raise awareness, and to heal.

Heese feels that her own mother is counted among the thousands of aboriginal women who have been unjustly targeted and had their lives taken too soon.

“I believe that she was murdered. She was badly beaten. The Coroner listed her death as alcohol poisoning. I was disheartened that she wouldn’t be counted among the murdered and missing.”

Indigenous women, Heese says, have been targeted by violence for centuries.

“This has been an issue since settlers first came to Canada. Before Canada became Canada. Our laws, our protocols, our cultural practices belonged to women. There was a balance between male and female. Canada tried to “clear the plain”. They killed the buffalo and stripped our women of their power. We lost our matriarchs. There are so many things that have happened in the last 500 years.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has put forward several calls to action related to the missing and murdered. None of which Heese feels have helped. The only path forward she says – is to teach children to take care of one another.

“Indigenous young people in care today are more likely to be hurt. When it happens once, it’s likely to happen again. In my own home – I care for 5 grandchildren. 3 boys and 2 girls. I teach them collectively to help one another and protect one another. Speaking in terms that a young child can understand. I’m arming the 5 that I have to protect themselves and protect others around them.”

Heese is hopeful that awareness around this issue – continues to grow.

“I hope that people become aware and involved. It’s as simple as seeing someone being hurt by another and stepping in, or calling for help. People need to help with this issue.”



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