From 2002 – 2007, I worked with Sandi Hill my First Nations sister-friend from Sixth Nations in Ontario Canada, to raise awareness on the plight of missing Aboriginal women.
We traveled through Canada, attending and organizing vigils and marches. Today, it humbles me to see how the movement has grown, and how Canada is rising to take accountability for this. The `Sisters in Spirit’ campaign was launched over a decade ago to raise awareness about the alarming rate of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, including high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
A study by the National Institute of Justice found 84 per cent of Native American and Alaska native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. The report is the outcome of two and a half years ordered by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It comes after two and a half years of work by the ordered by Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister. According to the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, around up to 4,000 indigenous women and girls have disappeared or been murdered in Canada since the 1970s.
Sandi Hill, my Sister-friend, passed away in 2009. It breaks my heart that she did not live to see this day, but always, I am always in gratitude for the gift of our friendship. This was my statement at her passing a decade ago. In the light of the new development of the `Sisters in Spirit Campaign’, I thought to share it.
Written in 2009
Statement on the passing of my Friend and Sister – Sandi Hill
From: Choice Okoro
This is perhaps the shortest statement I have written while spending the most time on it. I started writing this message many times and stopped; staring at the page and/or into space. In the face of the passing of a loved one, it is indeed important to be in a space of acceptance and gratitude for the times we spent with them on earth.
And I am indeed grateful for the privilege I have had to spend time with Sandi while she was here with us on earth. But I always thought I will have more time for fellowship with her; she was more than a friend and colleague; she was my sister.
Sandi’s passing has left me with shock and a sense of loss that I cannot shake. To a large extent, this is because I did not have the chance to tell her how much I appreciated my times and work with her.
Sandi was a friend and sister. I cannot recall any that I have laughed with as much as I have done with Sandi. I admired her more than words could say. She had courage to stay positive in the midst of the pain and tribulations she suffered as an Aboriginal woman in Canada. In one way she struggled to work with the Church in finding healing for herself and her people. I walked with her to some distance as she found the most authentic way to work with the Church in resolving issues of cultural diversity.
She inspired me to be authentic in the work I did on Sisters in Spirit – An imitative for justice for missing Aboriginal women and to End violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. We traveled through Canada together on the Sisters in Spirit Campaign. That journey brought some measure of healing for Sandi. She gave me the privilege to see the issue from her eyes and that gave me hope.
Above all she encouraged me to travel the path of a single mother. She loved Jason and would ensure that Jason celebrated Christmas in ways she never did. We spent the Christmas of 2006 with Jason wondering if the mysterious Santa wasn’t really John, Sandi’s partner. Jason is still unsure. Sandi spent many occasions jumping up and down with Jason and `screaming sugar what a buzz’ after loading Jason with candies amidst my protest.
There is no word to explain how much I miss my friend and sister and regret that I did not get the chance to tell her so while she was here on earth with us.
I will miss you my dear friend and Sister. One thing helps me come to terms with your passing; I know you have finally found the peace that may have eluded you here on earth.
`But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary: they shall walk and not faint.’ Isaiah 40:31