Noatkamewanning Hanisha Singers take a national stage in supporting families of missing and murdered

People of all ages shared a space of healing through a red jingle dress pow wow held in Winnipeg followed the five-day MMIW Inquiry.

By: Roland White

Families could feel the powerful shivers down their spine as Teddy Copenace solo lamenting song to missing and murdered indigenous women. The Red Jingle Dress pow wow, dedicated to the tragic missing and murdered women and men, was held at Winnipeg’s Lavallee School October 6.

“In’de dabajiitoon gi-nagamowan. (I sing from the heart.) Niminwendan apane gi-nagamowan owe nagamon (I feel good every time I sing this song.)”, says Copenace.

Teddy and Leslie Copenance an Tommy Hunter
Teddy Copenace, Leslie Copenace and Tommy Hunter (Photo Credit: Roland White)

Copenace says him and the rest of the Hanisha Singers volunteered to come to this event to help honour and support families in the healing process.

He describes the particular song, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” on the groups titled album ‘Remembering & Honouring Our Lost and Stolen Sisters’ before he sings. Woke up crying, he says it came to him as a dream of a girl who was in distress and trying to reach out to him but he was unable to help her.

Jingle Dress Dancers
Red Jingle Dress Dancers (Photo Credit: Karli Zschogner)

He explains his wife told him to go outside a make a fire and put tobacco down. While outside, the wind blew and he heard a voice say, “ogimaa- ikwe.” Afterwards he put down tobacco, he heard the leaves rustling like jingles and a voice saying again, “ Okijiichidaa-ikwe  was the one you were dreaming of.”

Desirae Paypompee was one of the red jingle dress dancers that came to participate in the pow-wow. Currently living in Winnipeg, she is originally from Naotkamegwannng First Nation.

Desirae Paypompee
Desirae Paypompee, originally from Naotkamegwanning First Nation, joined as a jingle dress dancer and the Winnipeg pow wow. (Photo Credit: Karli Zschogner)

She says it was a pleasant surprise to see her community members partake in the event.

“It was very healing,” she says. “It made me feel apart of something big.”

She says she feels responsible for educating her son about respect. She says she believes that like the Orange Shirt Day movement, youth and adults should be educated about this horror.

“I do have relatives who have lost their loved ones and I also have friends within the city who have lost loved ones also,” she says.

Jingles Dress Dancers - Roland White
Jingle Dress Dancers dance to help heal the pain (Photo Credit: Roland White)

The organizers including Walking Little Bear Candace Arrow expressed gratitude to the Hanisha Singers for dedicating their time and energy in attending the MMIW pow-wow.

She says she started planning this event in February for a space for healing and unity for the affected families. She says the process ended up something much more.

“It kept me clean, it kept me driven and kept me focused” says Arrow.

Organizer Candace Arrow watching female drum group
Organizer Walking Little Bear Candace Arrow watches female drum group (Photo Credit: Roland White)

She says has experienced both sides, being a supporter for children and youth at Red River College, and as a victim and survivor.

“I was nearly taken. I was 14. I was lured by alcohol and the man took me to the river,” she says. “Who knows what he could of done with me. I jumped out of the moving car.”

She was getting very emotional and teary eyed.

She says out of principle, she kept her budget costs below the small missing persons rewards offered for finding missing indigenous girls.

She says she was overwhelmed by the large turn out, raffle and food contributions and considers having it next year.

“If I do have it next year, it’s going to be in every province,” she laughs.

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