Moose Hide Campaign: standing up against violence towards women and children

An event held at the Keeseekoose Hall on October 18 was part of a national campaign in which similar events were held all across Canada.

The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who are standing up against violence towards women and children.

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On that day, the third annual national gathering was held in Ottawa.

Leonard Keshane of the Parkland Victims Services in Yorkton, which includes the Kamsack and Fort Pelly Detachments, was a prime organizer of the local event, which featured presentations from five speakers representing organizations which are collaborating to bring the message of the Moose Hide Campaign to the forefront and implementing strategies to make it successful.

Elder Leonard Keshane Sr. spoke the opening prayer and Leonard Keshane, emcee for the presentation, welcomed the attendees, and introduced the first presenter.

Christina Tranberg, of YTC (Yorkton Tribal Council) Health, a mental health therapist, originally from Ochapawace First Nation, but now of Stockholm, spoke about how this was an opportunity to honour the Moose Hide initiative that men, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from across Canada have taken upon themselves.

“Men are the protectors and providers of our communities, who are making commitments to work on this initiative,” Tranberg said. “Where there is hope, we can effect change. There is much to be thankful for, and this movement is all about helping the future generations.

“The role of men has been diminished somewhat in society, and that escalates into violence. Now is a time for renewal, to find ways to promote healing, to create strong moms and dads which will mean we have stronger children and stronger communities.

Tranberg then explained the origin of the Moose Hide campaign. The idea came about when a young Indigenous woman, Raven Lacerte, was hunting moose with her father near the Highway of Tears where many women have gone missing or been found murdered.

“They had brought down a moose that would help feed the family for the winter and provide a moose hide for cultural purposes,” said information found on the Internet. “As the daughter was skinning the moose her father started thinking that they were so near the highway that has brought so much sorrow to the communities along its endless miles, and here he was with his young daughter who deserved a life free of violence. That’s when the idea sprang to life.

“They would use the moose hide to inspire men to become involved in the movement to end violence towards women and children. Together with family and friends they cut up the moose hide into small squares and started the Moose Hide Campaign.

“Our Goal is to end violence towards women and children. To help achieve this, the Moose Hide Campaign will distribute 10 Million Moose Hide squares across Canada.

We will stand up with women and children and we will speak out against violence towards them.  

We will support each other as men and we will hold each other accountable.                                

We will teach our young boys about the true meaning of love and respect, and we will be healthy role models for them.

We will heal ourselves as men and we will support our brothers on their healing journey.

We encourage you to take action, make the pledge, and stand up to end violence towards women and children.”

“We need to focus on what we can do right now, to promote healing, to end violence, to create healthy people,” Tranberg said.

She then led the participants in a meditation and visualization exercise, and then a DVD presentation, both focused on reconnecting with one’s “spirit” and “spirituality” to demonstrate how one needs to embrace their spirituality, (not to be confused with “religion”), in order to heal from trauma that one has experienced at any age, from pre-birth where an embryo may be affected by trauma experienced by the mother.

“The spirit connects the soul, and can lift the soul out of darkness. Spirit connects the soul, and creativity is the voice of the soul, and when we are wounded we cannot express our creativity. Soul pain will manifest as physical pain,” she said.

Tranberg then outlined five initiatives and strategies that will be implemented by YTC Health in the immediate future which included a panel discussion on murdered and missing women, a partnership with Yorkton Justice, Child Find and Victim’s Services, a multi-media project dealing with “Signs of Safety” to promote a safety checklist for communities and a partnership with schools to present information.

The second presentation was lead by Mike Keshane, justice coordinator of YTC Justice.

Keshane introduced himself as Leonard Keshane’s younger brother, and spoke about how, as youngsters, they had witnessed violence against women, specifically against their mother.

“We lived through it all, and my older brothers were my safety,” he said. “Because my brothers protected me when I was young, I have taken on the role to protect others. To honour, respect and protect the women and children in our lives, and I share this this with all the men that I know, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, because violence affects everyone.”

Keshane is required to attend court on behalf of clients, and he is aware of how violence can affect people going through the Justice System.

He described the “restorative justice” of the First Nations, which focuses on justice in a healing and positive manner. He described how “the law” may not deal with people in that manner, and families can be torn apart.

He described the negative impacts on the individual accused of violence and on their whole family.

“Honour and respect is what is needed. Love and support those around you. The movement starts here with each one of us,” he said.

April Brazeau, a family violence outreach worker of the Safe Haven Women’s Shelter in Yorkton was the next presenter.

Safe Haven is a transition shelter for women and children who are fleeing a domestic abuse situation.

The many services offered by Safe Haven include: advocacy, counselling, empowerment, safety planning, domestic violence education, crisis intervention and referral to access support services, housing, financial, medical and legal assistance.

Representing SAWCC (Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation), Judy Hughes, the president of the Violence Protection and Community Safety portfolio, gave a presentation on how the Moose Hide Campaign gives men the tools to be able to know how to act when they witness violence against women and children.

SAWCC is a provincial organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing the status of Aboriginal women.

Hughes said that a 1929 court ruling recognized women as “persons” instead of “chattels.” The legal recognition of women as “persons” meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.

Hughes went on to use the board based on the “Faceless Dolls Project” to drive home the point of her presentation that women matter.

“The Aboriginal women and girls who are missing or have been murdered are victims of crime, and therefore faceless,” said information found on the Internet. “They are also faceless because they are devalued by society. The dolls are a visual representation of the girls and women who need to be remembered and they offer a way to find closure for their grieving families.

“In the known cases of missing and murdered women and girls, they are people’s sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and friends. Their unsolved cases leave a void in their families’ lives. These women and girls have also been forgotten by society.

“The Faceless Doll Project is a way to honour the missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and their families.”

The final presenter was Leonard Keshane of Parkland Victims Services. Keshane, a past Chief of Keeseekoose First Nation, presented an overview of what is offered through Victim’s Services.

“For victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, we are there to make sure they have supports in place and that they are not alone,” he said. “If they have no one to turn to, Victims Services is there to offer comfort and support.”

He described how the victim is provided with a “safety plan,” to have necessities on the ready to facilitate a quick exit from imminent danger and to be aware of the signs of danger in order to make a timely exit.

A “victim impact statement” gives the victim a voice to express how they feel because of the violence directed toward them, and court orientation prepares the victim for the court process.

He described how Victims Services will be there to stand in for the victim in court if need be, and they also act as a referral agency to the right resources so the victim is able to access the correct help.

“The job is very rewarding, although we are called upon to deal with a lot of trauma,” he said. “In the case of a sudden death we will be there to help the family cope.”

He indicated that Victims Services volunteers are available to help on calls in the evening if a traumatic event takes place, and said that they are always looking for more volunteers.