Indigenous Albertans walk for justice in honour of their missing and murdered relatives
Members of Indigenous communities across Alberta are walking together this weekend to raise awareness and continue the fight for the justice of their missing and murdered relatives.
The ‘North Meets South’ walk kicked off Saturday morning when a group of Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 members began their journey walking from Red Deer southbound on the QE2 highway.
Further south, another group of Treaty 7 members also set off from the Piikani Nation and began walking north with plans for everyone to meet up in Calgary on Oct. 4 for the Sisters in Spirit event.
Jamie Medicine Crane was amongst the walkers travelling from Red Deer Saturday morning.
She has lost nine of her Indigenous family members, the majority of which were murdered or reported missing within the last decade.
“It's really close to my heart and I feel like I need to do something for them,” she said.
“We must look at the bigger picture of why this is happening. It's the colonialism and what has perpetuated over the years and I think the biggest thing now is changing this for the future so our future generations don't have to go through.
Medicine Crane held a red dress up high over her head on Saturday’s walk. She was inspired by how many people honked their horns in support along the highway and says more and more people are supporting the cause year after year.
“Our Lives Matter and I think we need to bring that awareness, but also help send those prayers and good energy out to everybody so that people could start, I guess in their own way, to end the violence.”
Fellow walker, Mary Jo-Badger agrees that these types of events hope to one day give the Indigenous community a sense of closure, but also act as a reminder that their fight is still ongoing.
“We're not a forgotten people, we're loved and any support coming from the community and from the general public is welcome,” Badger said.
“Unfortunately, I have my own story and lost my cousin Bela who was murdered in Toronto. This is something a lot of Indigenous people share and experience and we don’t want to experience this alone, so we must always support our sisters.”
Valerie Alexander from the Enoch Cree Nation also lost a family member -- Georgina Faith Papin – whose remains were found on Robert Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm in July 2002.
Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, including the murder of Papin, who was 34 years old at the time of her disappearance and a mother to seven children.
“We need our voices heard,” Alexander said.
“We have to have some kind of closure to all of these deaths, to the people that are going missing and murdered and nobody doing anything about it.”
According to a report from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, there are over 2,000 Indigenous women missing and murdered across Canada.
The report adds that Indigenous women are also three and a half times more likely to experience violence in their lives than non-Indigenous women.