“We are not trash”

13 July 2023

An eagle silhouetted against an orange sun and sky.The chairpersons of Prairie to Pine Regional Council of the United Church of Canada express their dismay and anger with Manitoba’s decision to not search the Prairie Green landfill for the bodies of murder victims Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran. They, Rebecca Contois, and Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) are likely victims of a white mass murderer, and none of their bodies have been recovered.

As noted in the Prairie to Pine Regional Council December 2022 call for a search, failing to search for the women sends a strong and deeply disturbing message that their lives are not valued. It sends a message that they are not valued as Indigenous people, and not valued as women. Allowing the landfills to remain in use throughout most of this time is an unspeakably disrespectful decision that makes the path forward much harder. Consulting and then ultimately dismissing community, family, and organizations in this way causes immense harm and undermines any real reconciliation.

We fully support the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ July 6 statement that “… the government’s inaction and denial to commit funds send a distressing message across the province and the country that First Nations’ lives do not matter to the provincial government. The refusal to provide funding for the search perpetuates the pain and anguish experienced by the victims’ families. It undermines the efforts toward reconciliation and meaningful partnerships between the government and First Nations.”

Cambria Harris, Morgan’s daughter and leader in the community movement for a search, reminds us that, “This is a problem across all of Canada and this shouldn’t just be an Indigenous people’s problem. This should be… everybody’s problem.”

Concrete ways of stemming this violence have been put forward by First Nations, Métis, and Inuk groups many times, and then ignored. The United Church and its predecessor denominations were very much part of enabling that violence through residential schools and the many other ways in which we supported colonization. We continue to carry responsibility, and here we are being called to act on that responsibility.

Call to action for the membership of Prairie to Pine Regional Council

We ask the people of the Regional Council to use our suggested action of December 2022 to raise concerns with Winnipeg officials and your MLA. (Your MLA’s contact information is here.
Winnipeg councillors can be contacted here.) A short email or phone call with a very direct request is best.

We ask you to discuss plans for educating and engaging your community of faith membership.

You are also asked to respond to personal conversations or social media posts in which Indigenous people are blamed for the violence committed against them, and the peaceful blockade at Camp Morgan targeted or blamed.

Patricia Bird and Erica Wittevrongel, co-chairs, Prairie to Pine Regional Council

Further resources

Regional letter regarding a landfill search sent to the Premier of Manitoba (PDF)

Manitoba’s decision not to search landfill ‘heartless’: Crown-Indigenous relations minister

‘Our women are worth it’: The case for searching the Prairie Green Landfill

Prairie to Pine Regional Council December 2022 statement and action