photo by Bradley Saulteaux
For two years, the family and friends of the late Amber Alyssa Tuccaro spent every day not knowing what had happened to her. She had been at a hotel in Edmonton in August 2010 when she vanished.
Last month, her body was finally returned home to Fort Chipewyan after being discovered in a field near Leduc on Sept. 4. That brought some peace to her loved ones who were able to finally put her to rest on Sept. 28. An investigation into her death, which is being considered suspicious, is ongoing.
The questions of why and how this happened still linger, and those in the community want to see an end to the violence that has led to over 500 missing Aboriginal women across the country.
“We have to stop this violence,” Chief Steve Courtoreille of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan told the crowd at the Stolen Sisters Awareness Walk in Edmonton on Saturday. “This starts at home, how we teach our children to be respectful to one another, to their mothers, their grandmothers.
“There’s women that are missing from my First Nation. A young lady was found just recently, and that was the toughest thing I had to face as a leader - to show strength and support to the family, to show that I care. I had to make changes in my life in order for me to be a better person,” he said.
“The traditional role of men as protectors must be brought back.”
Speaking alongside Chief Courtoreille at Edmonton City Hall were Amber’s family and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, who came to pay his respects and offer himself as a “cane” to those needing support.
“In the past few months, there have been discoveries of several murdered, missing Aboriginal women in Alberta. My condolences go to the families,” he said.
Atleo said the issue remains a top priority for the AFN. This summer, leaders at the assembly’s annual general meeting vowed to live violence-free “in their hearts and homes,” and got the premiers of all provinces and territories to sign on to addressing the issue. But, he said, more work needs to be done to get all agencies to recognize the seriousness of the issue.
“We must continue to address the jurisdictional police barriers and increase cultural awareness and sensitivity of officers and agencies investigating these cases, so they are alive to the fact that indigenous women and girls have a sacred responsibility to their families and are, in fact, the strength of our communities,” he said.
Around 160 vigils and marches were held across the country last week to honour and bring awareness to missing and murdered Aboriginal women, including a candlelight vigil in Fort Smith, NWT on Thursday evening.
Around 30 people gathered to pray, share stories of loss and sign a petition calling for a national inquiry into missing Aboriginal women.
Marilyn Napier, president of the Native Women’s Association of the NWT, said there is strength in unity.
“As women, as the givers of life, we have a great responsibility to ensure the well-being and safety of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers,” she said. “Our men also have an important role to play as our supports and in ending the cycles of violence. Our leaders are strong and they are supporting this issue. We need to work together. As a society, Canadians are also coming out to stand alongside us in solidarity. This is why we do this work. This is why we are here today. This is why we are committed to moving this issue forward.”Share on Twitter Share on Facebook