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MMIWG ceremony and march held at Tsaxis in Fort Rupert

The ceremony featured speakers, cultural singing, drumming, dancing, and a cedar branch cleansing

The North Island’s annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) march was held at the Kwakiutl First Nation big house in Tsaxis (Fort Rupert) on Thursday, May 2, which was funded by the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre.

Hereditary chiefs Calvin Hunt, David Knox, and Mervyn Child welcomed everyone to the Kwakiutl traditional territory, and then after that there was cultural singing and drumming, which was followed by Cary-Lee Calder and North Island Building Blocks manager Stephanie Bernard speaking on behalf of all the families, some who couldn’t be in attendance, who have suffered losses.

“We come together as a community to show our love, compassion, and solidarity for the legacy of the lives that we have lost,” said Bernard, her voice breaking as she spoke into the microphone. “I had two beautiful cousins that were taken way too early.”

Bernard then noted that Red Dress Day, which features red dresses being placed in public areas every May 5, is a visual reminder of all the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people.

“Each person has a role to play to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual people,” stated Bernard, adding that the statistics are “absolutely horrific.”

“Indigenous women are six times more likely to be murdered, between 1,600 and 4,000 Indigenous women are missing. It is not only a human rights issue, but also a public health issue.”

The violence that is experienced by Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people has a “significant impact on our physical well-being,” she noted, stating the reason they have gathered at the big house is “to uplift” and to “bring awareness” to the communities “so that the legacy of our loved ones is not lost.”

Port Hardy councillor Dennis Dugas was in attendance on behalf of the District of Port Hardy.

Dugas read a heartfelt letter from Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt who was unfortunately not able to attend, and then he said that we all have a responsibility to “our matriarchs, the women in the past that have made us who we are today, but we also have an obligation to the young women here, the young girls that are growing up in this society, that they are our future.”

Dugas added he was thankful for being able to have the opportunity to represent The District of Port Hardy, and “my hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost their loved ones.”

The ceremony at the big house concluded with a cedar branch cleansing, a cultural female dance, and then a march around the Tsaxis village before lunch was served.

The MMIWG march originated in 1991 on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver after a young Indigenous woman’s body was found dismembered at the corner of Powell and Salsbury streets. The march became an annual event held on Feb. 14 to protest the high numbers of women missing and murdered in the Downtown Eastside that have had their files neglected by Canada’s Police and RCMP. The annual march brings courage and commitment to end the violence that vulnerable Indigenous women face on a daily basis all across Canada. It represents a time for remembering, grieving, honouring, and seeking answers for Indigenous communities and their allies.

- with file from Black Press

Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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