They were with me in thought that night — the 511 Native women who have gone missing or been murdered across this country over the last 30 years, as I travelled between the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border.
It was there that racism found me thousands of kilometres from home.
My daughter and I could have become Stolen Sisters that night, for no reason other than the fact that we are Native women.
Sensationalized media reports about these women shrouds the grim reasons central to their disappearance: The racialized environment in which Native women navigate.
Regardless of our varying backgrounds, we are subjected to the dangerous shadows of hatred, ignorance and greed.
It is in this mutual vulnerability that we are bonded in Sisterhood.
I had left my reserve in August of 2002 and was travelling east with my daughter, relocating for 10 months to gain work experience in a career I was formally pursuing in university.
I knew that not all Native women leave their homes for hopeful prospects.
Many go to escape impoverished reserves, to run from the ongoing legacy of the residential school experience — violence and sexual abuse.
Sadly, what awaits them in the cities is no different than that.
I was midway between home and my destination and almost out of gas.
I could see the yellow glow of a gas station in the distance.
Relieved, I waited for the attendant to turn on the pump.
After several minutes of waiting I went inside to talk to the attendant and to my horror I was denied service because of who I am, a Native woman.
In shock I scrambled for words.
“I’m almost out of gas,” I pleaded with the attendant, a white woman, perhaps in her late 40s.
“Not my problem,” she rudely stated.
“Are you seriously going to send my daughter and I out on the highway in the night without fuel?”
The attendant just stared mutely into the cash register and after a long and uncomfortable silence, I walked back to my vehicle.
Fear rushed through my body as I contemplated my next move.
I was terrified.
Do I stay or do I go?
I chose the road ahead, praying profusely with each passing kilometre until my answer appeared in the form of a dilapidated motel about 10 kilometres down the road.
At first light, we were back on the road, found a gas station that would serve us, and left the province without a word.