June 3 was the first anniversary of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). On Canada Day, we share Charlotte Snake’s photography as a way of keeping the conversation alive.
Aaniin Charlotte Snake ndoozhinikaaz, Mnjikaning ndoonjibaa, Mkwa dodem. Hello my name is Charlotte Snake, I am from and connected to Mnjikaning (Rama) and I sit in the Bear clan. My paternal side of the family are Ojibwe, Chippewas of Rama First Nation and my maternal side of the family are white. I am 14 and going into grade 10 in September. I grew up mostly on reserve and attended an Indigenous based school in the community. I also went to schools outside of Reserve in Toronto and Kawartha Lakes. While living off reserve we were not taught about aboriginal history or anything about our practices. Yet on reserve it is primarily based around our culture.
Canada day is a hard day for me as an Indigenous Canadian. Canada is portrayed as a welcoming and innocent country but really Canada covers up the years of genocide and oppresion that Aboriginals and other people of colour face. It is a celebration of when Canada was formed, yet it isn’t discussed how it is land that was stolen from Natives. The purpose of my photographs are to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) as a way to acknowledge, honour and get justice for the women, girls and their families.
What inspired me to take the photos was just the timing. I had the feeling in my heart that now was the right time to speak up and taking photos was what came to mind to acknowledge the subject. It is important to have more conversations about MMIWG in mainstream media because it is a way to let people know we aren’t going anywhere and push the government to stop letting this happen and start looking into the cases.
Taking these photos has made me feel conflicted. It makes me sad that MMIWG is something that continues to happen to our sisters where the families don’t receive justice and it is never talked about in the media. Yet, at the same time, I am grateful that I can speak for the ones who have been silenced for so long and I believe they know that I am advocating for and honouring them.
The purpose of putting myself into some of my photographs was to show the red handprint across my face. This symbol is put across the mouth to represent our voices being silenced and the violence we face. Showing my face made me feel apprehensive. I am aware some people don’t consider half blood natives the same as someone who is full. But I live my life by following my beliefs and where I originate from. Being able to show my face regardless of being half native, makes me proud and powerful to stand in solidarity with other Indigenous women and girls alike.
Publisher’s note: These photos were captured in Charlotte’s community this week and edited by Charlotte. Her mother, Cheryl Caven, consented to the submission of these photos.
Did you know that less than 5% of all indie-media outlets in Canada are led or majority-owned by womxn? We need women-led media–and intersectional, inclusive feminist media more than ever in these times. Please consider supporting this work monthly or via a one time donation.
See our commitment to help uphold indigenous land rights here.