Pefferlaw mapBy Becky Big Canoe

CHIPPEWAS OF GEORGINA ISLAND – Glenna Mae Breckenridge’s story, as told on CBC’s The National on September 24, was a real shocker for many of us. We all know that First Nations people all went through a period in time when the authorities cared nothing for us other.  We had to have a pass to leave the “Indian Reserve” and our kids regularly tried to run away from the hell holes that were the residential schools.

It hasn’t been easy for me to start to write this story. I have had to work through my strong emotional reaction to the horror of it first. Fortunately, I started a group on Facebook to bring honour and respect to the boys, even if we never find out exactly who they were. Talking with members of the group has helped me to see what had to be done and that this can be an opportunity for healing and reconciliation in a very unique way. Together we are planning on honoring the memory of the three boys in a good way.

In speaking with many of my social media friends after the airing of the show, I know that collectively we felt punched in the gut while at the same time having our hearts ripped from our chests. We could all relate in some way to that story. To digest the fact that it all occurred because one of those young men acted in a heroic manner in defense of young Glenna Mae speaks untold volumes about that young man’s humanity and decency no matter what other circumstances were going on in his life.

It turns out that the farm it all happened on is geographically closest to my First Nation, Georgina Island, and so I felt a special obligation to initiate some kind of collective response to what we learned from Glenna Mae’s story. I used social media to convene a steering group of people who I trust very much and who had shown an interest in the story. Together we made some decisions and we will be hosting a releasing ceremony and feast for the three boys as close to the site of their murder as we can.

The ceremony will be happening on November 1st starting around 10 am followed by a gathering and a feast at the Pefferlaw Lions Hall in Pefferlaw.

This time of year is traditionally a time when we hold those feasts in honour and memory of our loved ones who have passed on. I am sure it will be a very meaningful and significant event.

The most important facet of the story is that the boys were murdered. Although the alleged murderer has since passed on, the fact remains that a crime was committed and the boys deserve that justice at least be extended to the point that it is confirmed by the police and the remains be exhumed.

We need to start a campaign of pressure on the police and government to have those bodies exhumed, examined and hopefully identified. We all feel that if they had been identified as being anything other than First Nations boys the justice system would have already pursued their identities and exhumed them from the farm site.

Once an exhumation was completed, I would expect our Anishinabek Nation to arrange for a burial and marker that recognizes that these boys were likely members of at least one of our communities and deserve a burial that reflects dignity and respect. That way all of us could have some closure over this tragic end to their lives.

Daily we hold the knowledge that our women are going missing or being murdered in far too high numbers but the reality and truth is that it also happens to our men and we must extend our work to include them as well. Much to the Chiefs credit, they have put out a bulletin asking if anyone can recall anything about the boys from back in 1955. Hopefully someone’s memory will be sparked and these boys won’t have to remain anonymous and lost to us forever.

I’m fortunate to know Karen Wolfe, the producer and editor of The Pefferlaw Post, someone who I know is thoughtful, compassionate and determined to pursue the facts of a story. I shared all I knew with her and she reached out to the producer of the National piece, Paul Hunter and eventually to Glenna Mae herself. She also is personal friends with the current owner of the farm and has approached him on our behalf. We are waiting to hear if we will have access to the farm in order to do the releasing ceremony.

For more information on the Nov. 1 event in Pefferlaw, contact Becky Big Canoe: 905-252-8003 or on Facebook