The Moose Hide Campaign, a grassroots movement aimed at ending violence against Indigenous women and children, is holding its annual day of ceremony, fasting and action virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
First Nation father-daughter duo Raven and Paul Lacerte, who founded the campaign, told CTV’s Your Morning that Thursday’s online events include live keynote addresses from Indigenous leaders and artists, interactive online workshops to address the issues of reconciliation and gender-based violence, as well as traditional Indigenous cultural teachings on wellness practices and gender roles.
Paul said they kicked off the events with a virtual “sunrise ceremony” early Thursday morning, ahead of other activities starting at 8:30 a.m. PST. The pair says all Canadians are welcome to partake in the ceremony, even if it’s just for a portion of the events.
Raven said she and her father founded the Moose Hide Campaign while on their annual moose-hunting trip along the Highway of Tears in 2011. Since then, Raven says the movement has grown to encompass tens of thousands of Canadians across the country.
“I was 16 when we first got the idea to start the Moose Hide Campaign and so we’ve just been watching it grow. It started just with my dad and I along the Highway of Tears with this medicine and now we have over 80,000 people joining us in ceremony today,” Raven said in an interview on Thursday.
The duo explained that the campaign centres around distributing squares of moose hide attached to pins. According to the campaign’s website, wearing the pin “is an act of reconciliation and signifies one’s commitment to honour, respect and protect the women and children in your life and speak out against gender-based and domestic violence.”
The campaign says it is inspired by “the belief that men and boys also need to take action to end violence and develop a culture of healthy masculinity across Canadian society.”
The campaign has been endorsed by prominent supporters across Canada including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Columbia Premier John Horgan, both of whom have previously been seen wearing the pins. Those looking to order a pin this year can do so online.
Paul says the campaign has distributed more than two million moose hide pins since its inception. According to their own independent research, each pin leads to at least five conversations about working together to end violence against Indigenous women and children.
“For Canadians, I think there’s a recognition that reconciliation is not about any sort of a handout to Indigenous people. This is one excellent example of the richness of Indigenous cultures, and our ability to contribute to the reconciliation experience for Canadians in a really rich and beautiful way,” Paul said.
In addition to attending the day’s events, participants in the Moose Hide Campaign are also encouraged to take part in a one-day fast. Paul said the fasting demonstrates “the depth of our commitment to end violence against women and children in this country.”
“When something important is at hand, you fast and so this is an important matter and we’re welcoming… all of the folks across this country to participate with us today,” Paul said.
While fasting may not be doable for everyone, Raven said it is something that “many cultures can get behind.” She said the universality of fasting can help Canadians who are not Indigenous feel connected to the Moose Hide Campaign and the issues it is working to address.
“We know for ourselves how much ceremony can be so healing and so we wanted to create an opportunity for all Canadians to join us in a ceremony, one that’s led by Indigenous peoples,” Raven said.
Over past 10 years of the Moose Hide Campaign, Paul says Canada has been working to better help stem violence against Indigenous women and children, including tabling recommendations through the Truth and Reconciliation report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
He said the Truth and Reconciliation report has been “really pivotal” for the Moose Hide Campaign and furthers Canada’s commitment to ending gender-based violence.
“It’s really about bringing this issue out of the shadows and into the light that we’re going to be able to make the change we’re looking for,” Paul said.