The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls heard from 27 families at the public hearings in Smithers, plus 12 more in private.
The stories were of loss and hope, injustice and resilience. They weighed heavy on the heart for anyone who sat through the three days inside the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre.
That’s why it was such a relief to hear from the students of ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School in Kitsumkalum.
The ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo students, who ranged from Grades 5 to 12, spoke Wednesday after performing two songs including The Highway.
The Highway has a well-produced video created with the help of N’we Jinan, a program aimed at helping students express themselves creatively.
When the kids, who come from communities around the region including Terrace, Kispiox and Kitsumkalum, had the opportunity to speak directly to the commissioners of the inquiry, they didn’t miss the chance to make an impact. Commissioner Michèle Audette asked the students if future inquiry meetings could start with their video, which was answered with an assertive yes by the students.
“You’re representing hope. And I don’t know where you got that strength, but it’s telling me that it’s possible and it’s there and it’s so alive; that you’re keeping our laws alive for today and tomorrow,” Audette told the kids as they sat in front of the cameras and a national audience.
Each student then put their written message in a red willow basket at the front to be shared with the country as part of the inquiry’s report. The ceremonial basket was gifted to the inquiry from a group in Manitoba.
A message of leadership rising up from these youth was also sent.
“My principal Colleen [Austin] and [cultural advisor Larry Derrick], they always tell me don’t let people bring you down because we’re young leaders; we’re the new generation,” said Grade 10 student Linda Spencer.