Meet Amanda Rheaume, the Songwriter Raising Awareness for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]D[/dropcap]id you know that in Canada, Aboriginal women are three times more likely that non-Aboriginal women to be killed by a stranger? And that Aboriginal women make up 3 percent of the total female population in Canada, but represent 10 percent of all homicides? These stats are jarring on their own, but they also represent a deeply heartbreaking reality for so many communities, and for so many women who are left to wonder whether they’ll become a statistic.
After years of advocacy from Indigenous people in Canada, the new liberal government is finally launching a national inquiry into the issue. “This office, this place, this parliament, has failed indigenous peoples in this country for a long, long time," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Nikki Fraser, a youth representative from the B.C. Native Women's Association, in a CBC interview.
And while government action is an incredible step forward, it’s clear that activists won’t stop raising awareness until every Canadian (and beyond) understands the pain and fear this systemic issue is causing. That’s why Amanda Rheaume, a Metis musician co-wrote a song called Red Dress, the title in reference to the Red Dress Project, an art installation that displays red dresses to symbolize the more than one thousand cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. All proceeds from Amanda’s hauntingly beautiful song are being donated to the Native Women’s Association of Canada. This week, we chatted with Amanda to learn more about the song, the issue, her feminist songwriting aspirations, and more.[divider type="dashed" spacing="10"]
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
I am a Metis singer-songwriter from Ottawa, ON Canada. I write and perform my own songs in Canada, Europe and the UK.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
Tell me about the process of writing and producing Red Dress– what has it meant to you?
Red Dress is a co-write between my producer and I. He sent me a quick melody and song idea and I ended up writing and lyrics and turning it into the song you hear now. I had been wanting to write a song that spoke to the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada for a long time but I wasn’t exactly sure how. When the verdict for the Cindy Gladue case came out and I attended a rally in Ottawa that Bridget Tolley organized, I was inspired to write the song from the perspective of victim blaming. I wanted the lyrics to really make people think and consider how we treat these women before and after they are missing or murdered.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
How does feminism play a part in what you do?
It is incredibly important to me that women have equal rights and are respected and honoured. I consider myself a feminist, Red Dress is the first song I’ve written that speaks to this issue, and certainly won’t be the last.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
How can our readers help raise awareness for missing and murdered Aboriginal women?
Share stories, share news, share the truth about what is happening and what has happened. Read the stories. To me raising awareness is the first step, then we must get systems in place and slowly start to unravel the causes behind this major issue.[divider type="white" spacing="10"]
Any events/shows/upcoming projects of yours that you'd like our readers to know about?
I will be releasing my new album “Holding Patterns” May 6th in North America and have a tour in Canada in May to support the release!