Instrumentalities of the Settler State 3a - The instrumentality of state institutions


The instrumentality of state institutions

An open account book sits on a timber desk. Scrawled across the right page is the message, 'I know what you did last century'. Behind it a number of objects are propped up against the wall. These include an 'Aboriginal art book' by Charles P. Mountford, an old, dirty bottle, timber letters that spell 'I O U', a landscape painting and a piece of timber cut into the shape of Australia.

[imagecaption]  I Know What You Did Last Century, 2010. Artist: Paola Balla. Image courtesy of the artist. [/imagecaption]


Discussing the annual memorial marches for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women organised by a community coalition in Canada, Allison Hargreaves describes the significance of their route, beginning on the steps of the courthouse and winding through the busiest downtown streets to the police headquarters. Like the content of the speeches, the route of the march was ‘an act of Indigenous-led public memorial’ that emphasised that ‘the justice system has not merely failed to protect the missing and murdered, but has been instrumental to this violence in the first place –displacing Indigenous women and children’ through policy and legislation expressly designed to this end. Hargreaves argues that the march did not seek protection for Indigenous peoples caught in these institutions, but rather insisted ‘on the need for a different political relationship between Indigenous people and the colonial nation-state’ (Hargreaves 2017, 8).

The first MMIW March was organised as early as 1992 in response to the murder of a woman on Powell Street in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, Coast Salish Territories. This important scene of early activism helped to place the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on the national political agenda.


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