Raven Lacerte is the co-founder of the Moose Hide Campaign, a grassroots movement of men and boys standing up against violence toward women and children.
Today, we are marking an important anniversary: 10 years of the Moose Hide Campaign; a decade of conversations sparked by the campaign about the need to end violence against women and children and how to involve men and boys in those discussions.
An important occasion, for sure. But the fact we are still having these conversations means our work is not nearly done. More than 6,000 women and children are housed in emergency shelters each night across Canada trying to escape abuse.
The fact that we are beginning the second year of the global pandemic, which has caused economic hardship and isolation, resulting in an increase in domestic violence, makes our work even more urgent.
I am a proud member of the Lake Babine First Nation, and giving back is part of my culture. Our community is located in central British Columbia and our territory is intersected by Highway 16 – the infamous Highway of Tears, where so many Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing.
Ten years ago, while on my annual hunting trip with my father, Paul, the forest, the land and the peaceful surroundings contrasted by the legacy of pain and tragedy, inspired us to act.
As we harvested our moose, we had an idea – to use the hide of the moose, which is so important to our culture, as an emblem for a campaign to encourage men and boys to join the effort to end violence against women and children.
Wearing the pin would symbolize one’s commitment to honour, respect and protect the women and children in their life and to speak out against gender-based and domestic violence.
Our own family is not immune to this violence. My late mother was a survivor of a residential school, many members of our extended family have experienced violence and we have loved ones who have been murdered.
My dad is a hard working and loving father. For many years, his work was with Native friendship centres, and of course, he knew the statistics – that Indigenous women are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
He also heard the troubling stories of women experiencing violence. What he didn’t hear or see, however, were very many men participating in these conversations. Wasn’t this the missing piece? Without men and boys being educated about domestic violence, without raising awareness and providing information, without engaging them in the solutions, the cycles of violence would only continue.
I was 16 years old, and after we returned from the hunt, my sisters and I began to cut up the hide of that moose into squares. We attached safety pins to each one and wrote a message on small recipe cards that said, “If you wear this moose hide pin it means that you promise never to commit violence against women and children and you also promise to take a stand against that violence.”
That first year we gave away 25,000 of those pins and cards. We talked to as many people as we possibly could, and our little grassroots movement grew and grew.
To date, we have given away over two million pins as we try to reach our goal of distributing 10 million. Each pin, according to independent research, sparks at least five conversations about working together to end violence against women and children. By the time we reach our goal, we will have sparked more than 50 million conversations.
Today, as we have done each year for the past 10 years, we are holding our annual Moose Hide Campaign Day. It is a day of celebration, inspiration, education and fasting. Since the start of the campaign, the number of people fasting with us has grown from 25 to more than 25,000 this year.
In another five years, our aim is for one million Canadians to fast together to stand up against violence toward women and children. All Canadians from all cultures and gender identities are invited to fast with us.
This year the day looks different, as it will be held virtually on a live stream. The day is full of ceremony and ritual, speakers, including our elders, and workshops for students from elementary to high school.
On this day, we remember those we lost, and we share our stories and we gather inspiration so we can heal and build a better world.
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