Remembering the missing and murdered

Adults lead a walk at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People ceremony May 5 in Sucker Creek First Nation. Left-right, are Lakeshore Regional Police Service crime-prevention co-ordinator Kristina Letendre, MMIP advocate Belinda Willier, Ann Koski, Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council resolution health support worker Nancy Chalifoux, and Allan Koski.
Guest speaker Kari Thomason addresses the crowd at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People ceremony in Sucker Creek First Nation.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Missing and murdered Indigenous people were remembered at a special ceremony May 5 in Sucker Creek First Nation.
“Our People are Sacred” was the theme of the event at the Sucker Creek Recreation Centre to commemorate National MMIP Awareness Day.
Sucker Creek health director Tanis Willier says the day is a time to reflect and to remember and honour the missing and murdered.
“We are strong, resilient people and we must unite to bring strength and support to our families and friends impacted by violence,” Willier says.
“This is our opportunity to end the silence and create awareness and solidarity with the movement by wearing red.”
Local MMIP advocate Belinda Willier says the movement is important.
“Bringing awareness is amazing,” says Willier, one of several women from the High Prairie Native Friendship Centre who started to spread the message about missing and murdered Indigenous women about 15 years ago.
She urges people to speak up about the issue.
“If you know anything about a missing or murdered Indigenous person, contact the police, a women’s shelter, get in touch with your pastor, Elders, help out one another,” Willier says.
“This affects every culture.”
She suggests that the movement grow to include all cultures, not just focusing on Indigenous people.
Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council resolution health support worker Nancy Chalifoux says each person and the community are valuable have valuable roles.
“One of the primary purposes for gatherings such as this is to provide community support and healing for the families in attendance whose loved ones are missing or have been murdered.”
“We gather to pay respect to families and support them on their journeys of keeping their courage and strength alive so they are able to continue to fight for justice.
“We are not going anywhere; we need justice, truth, energy, awareness and healing.”
Longtime Indigenous advocate Kari Thomason says many changes are needed to reverse the tragic trend.
“Our people are the most targeted to go missing and be murdered,” Thomason says.
Communities need more and stronger voices to combat missing and murdered people and get justice, she says.
“We need to be more vocal,” Thomason says.
“We don’t have a justice system, we have no justice.
“We must be able to speak our minds and speak the truth.”
She says another important part of community protections needs to step up.
“We need law enforcement to be accountable to the people in our communities,” Thomason says.
The more voices, the better, she notes.
“It takes a community to make change to make our communities safe and we all need to band together,” Thomason says.
“We need our men to take back their roles as warriors and protect our women.”
Gatherings in many communities throughout the Peace region and across Canada were held to mark the day.

Families and people of all ages participated in a walk at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People ceremony May 5 in Sucker Creek First Nation. Left-right, are Stephanie Willier, daughter Leighton Wardman, 6, and sister Erin Thunder.
The Treaty 8 Singers perform an honour song at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People ceremony May 5 in Sucker Creek First Nation. Left-right, are Farley Cardinal, Domino Cardinal, Cody Willier and Aidan Goodswimmer.

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