Around 20 people gathered at the Terrace Art Gallery to make medicine bags in preparation for the city’s second annual Valentine’s Day memorial march to remember the missing and murdered women and girls.
The march on Feb. 14 is recognized across the country to raise awareness and provide prayers for the families whose loved ones are still missing or who have lost their lives to violence. Highway 16, which is commonly referred to as the Highway of Tears, is where more than 20 women over the past four decades have gone missing or were found murdered.
Each person there weaved black string across cut patches of deer hide to make a pouch to carry traditional medicines like cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco. The act of making the bags can be integral to the healing process, each put together with positive intentions and healing thoughts from the bag’s creator.
“I’m trying to shift the focus of anger and bitterness to healing, and we thought collectively that a medicine bag workshop would be a great start to the healing journey,” says Stephanie Radek, an outreach worker for the Kermode Friendship Society. Her cousin Tamara Chipman has been missing for 12 years.
“The effects of not just the intergenerational trauma within our community of Terrace here, but the traumas that come when a loved one is ripped away from you. A lot of families, including mine, feel like nothing is being done,” Radek says.
“We don’t ever forget [Tamara]. And I don’t think the community should forget anybody who has been through any of those traumatic events — we don’t need to suffer in silence. It’s important for each and every community member to know that they’re not alone.”
The RCMP estimated that around 1,200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada between 1980 to 2012, but Canada’s Minister of Status of Women suggested the number could be as high as 4,000.
This year’s march will start at the RCMP detachment at 11 a.m., where flowers will be laid by the totem poles there. It will then proceed down Lakelse Ave. before ending at the new Kermode Friendship Centre building on Park Ave. for a traditional healing circle with support from grief and loss counsellors.
“Making the commitment to show up today is a healing process in itself, not just acknowledging what has happened to a family, but coming and standing beside them in preparation, that’s what’s so important,” says Arlene Roberts, a member of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and wife of Kitsumkalum chief councillor Don Roberts.
“You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to do anything, just come and be.”