The Different Stories of Cree Woman, Daleen Kay Bosse (Muskego) and Dakota-Sioux Woman, Amber Tara-Lynn Redman: Understanding Their Disappearances and Murders through Media Re-Presentations and Family Members' Narratives

McKenzie, Holly Ann
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

Mainstream media re-presentations continue to position Aboriginal women as naturally hypersexual and immoral. This discursive strategy justifies, enables, and incites violence against Aboriginal women (Keating, 2006; LaRocque, 1990). In order to explore 1) how media outlets and agents can be responsive to family and friends of disappeared and murdered Aboriginal women and 2) how media re-presentations can effectively disrupt rather than re-produce white masculine and colonial hegemony, I conducted this thesis project with my co-researchers, Pauline Muskego and Gwenda Yuzicappi. Pauline is the mother of Daleen Kay Bosse (Muskego), a Cree woman from Onion Lake First Nation who disappeared in 2004 and was found, murdered, in 2008. Gwenda is the mother of Amber Tara-Lynn Redman, a Dakota Sioux woman from Standing Buffalo First Nation who disappeared in 2005 and was found, murdered, in 2008. This research process involved 1) engaging in conversations with Pauline and Gwenda about their daughters, 2) conducting an analysis of how mainstream and Aboriginal media outlets re-presented Daleen and Amber’s disappearances and murders, and 3) interviewing journalists who covered these stories. In this thesis, I relate the stories Pauline and Gwenda shared with me about their daughters and their experiences with journalists. I also examine the ways Amber and Daleen’s stories were framed during the time they were missing: through the justice system’s efforts to find Daleen and Amber, Amber and Daleen’s family members’ search for them as well as their experiences missing Amber and Daleen and not knowing where they were, as well as the broader issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Then, I examine media re-presentations of Amber and Daleen’s murders and the trial of their (accused) perpetuators. I discuss how the stories of Daleen and Amber’s murders were primarily re-presented through justice system processes and discourses. I take the position that the dominance of justice system discursive materials, spokespeople, and processes in these re-presentations effectively individualizes Daleen and Amber’s murders. I discuss the importance of media outlets and journalists re-presenting family members’ healing journeys in addition to what has traditionally been accepted by media outlets as newsworthy events. Then, I provide recommendations for media outlets, which are also relevant to Aboriginal organizations, family members of disappeared and murdered Aboriginal women, and allies. My purpose in conducting this research and making these recommendations is to add to the dialogue about how media outlets can be more responsive (to family members) and transformative (of white masculine and colonial hegemony) when covering stories of Aboriginal women who have disappeared or been found murdered. At the same time, the discursive and material landscape of Canada under the current Conservative government has stifled this conversation. The recent cuts to CBC (2012), Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters In Spirit initiative (2010) and Health Department (2012) as well as the defunding of the National Aboriginal Health Organization (2012) illustrates how the current federal Canadian government, with its morally and fiscally conservative white-settler ideology, is reinforcing Aboriginal women’s marginalization and undermining their safety.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Special Case Master of Arts degree in Canadian Plains Studies, University of Regina. viii, 192 p.