Tag Archives: MMIW

Taken: Cherisse Houle

This week’s episode of Taken focused on the specialized investigation unit known as Project Devote. Officers from the Winnipeg Police and the RCMP deal specifically with cases categorized under “murdered and missing  exploited persons.” The active case of Cherisse Houle, a smart and playful youngster, who loved being active, exemplifies the class of casework this unit was established for. Officers believe any seemingly insignificant detail could prove the key to solving Cherisse’s murder and people are strongly urged to call 1 888 673-3316 to share any information about Cherisse.

Cherisse’s older sister, Jessica, was her best friend; they were inseparable. Bowling, movies and rollerskating were some of their favoured activities as young children, and as a child Cherisse was eager to meet the challenge of school. However, during grade school this all changed and her life turned to a pinball of group homes and foster care. It is Jessica’s belief that had the two sisters never been placed with CFS, Cherisse would still be alive. It was here that they were first exposed to illegal drugs and sex work.

A 17-year-old  mother of an 18-month-old boy, Cherisse was a vulnerable teen who had fallen victim to the sex trade and whose life was plagued with drug use. By all accounts, though she had been making efforts to turn her life around. Cherisse had been reaching out to family members for assistance and had made efforts to get treatment. These requests proved futile. Sadly, due to lack of space, she was turned away from several treatment facilities in the region. Days later, Cherisse vanished.

Last seen on June 26, 2009 in Winnipeg, her body was found on July 1, 2009 by a construction worker near Rosser, Manitoba, adjacent to Sturgeon Creek.

If you have any information about this case or any other active cases you are asked to contact Taken.

Taken airs a new episode Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


Working It Out Together: Decolonization Dance

Season 3 ends on a high note featuring dance, and its ability to heal. Host Waneek Horn-Miller sums up the significance of dance: “Dance has always been an integral part of our ceremonies and traditions. It expresses our prayers, and our mythology, it celebrates our victories, and is a way to heal.”

However, colonization nearly destroyed dance. Policy forced dance underground, yet it survived and is seeing a resurgence across the land. Briana Olson, Manager, iHuman Youth Society, explains, “Our ceremonies were related, and central, and fully immersed in how we raised our children, how we engaged in trade, and through our language was how we were directly connected with how we viewed our land.” But to the colonizers, dance was viewed as a threat to the values they held. Thus the settlers created policy to ensure language, ceremonies and sacred dances were all banned. This form of colonization has facilitated  the culture of shame that, for many Indigenous people, has become a way of being.

Karen J. Pheasant, Cultural Knowledge Keeper, also speaks to the tradition and importance of dance in Indigenous culture: “We always gave first and foremost recognition to the powers that be, that brought these to us and we gave them with ceremony which was song, which was offerings, and celebrate the good life. What enabled us to do that was through our dance.”

James Jones, is a self described fusion dancer who, following a career altering knee injury, combined hip-hop with traditional dance styles. James, the official dancer with the popular band A Tribe Called Red, describes dancing as “food for the spirit.” When not touring, he has  been leading youth workshops, sharing his own experiences with multi-generational trauma and how that journey has affected his life. James was able to overcome personal tragedy and in so doing claims he was healed by the power of Hoop Dancing.

One interesting final note with respect to this episode: in the segment about James’ life in gangs on the streets of Edmonton,  there are a series of shots edited in, but never directly addressed. We see images from the Red Dress Campaign. This campaign was designed to draw attention to the plight of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls across Canada.

You can read more about James Jones here at WIOT Zine.

Overall, this season has  been incredibly instructive. Each episode, each facet explored, demonstrates how pervasive colonization has penetrated the lives of Indigenous people. If you are a student or a teacher wanting to understand colonization, particularly in light of the recent TRC Report and its Calls to Action, or if perhaps you are looking to add more content to your Social Studies units I HIGHLY recommend watching this season in its entirety. When viewed together, you get a real sense of the over arcing scope government and policy have played in the lives of Indigenous people in Canada. Additionally, there is a wealth of resources that could easily be adapted for classroom activities, located in the link listed above.