May 17th, 2024

Missing, murdered Indigenous women remembered at vigil

By Lethbridge Herald on October 5, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Walkers carrying signs leave City Hall for Galt Gardens at the 15th Annual Sisters In Spirit walk Monday evening.

Dale Woodard
Lethbridge Herald
For the 15th year, the Sisters in Spirit walk took the streets in memory of missing and lost loved ones.
The annual walk met at City Hall just after 6 p.m. Monday and proceeded to march down to Galt Gardens – complete with a police escort – for a ceremony and candle light vigil to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people.
As the Sisters In Spirit Walk headed into its 15th year, Sheldon Day Chief, one of the walk participants, stressed education and awareness going forward.
“The importance of awareness of initiatives such as this are most important and it shines a light on what’s been happening in Canada for such a long time,” said Day Chief. “It’s a situation where calls for action and the only way I see – as mentioned by one of our speakers – is that change starts with us. It’s called a community action plan and where it starts in the community is with individuals and that’s what this is calling for. I believe that’s where it all starts. We can’t deviate from that. As much as I believe in team efforts and community efforts, but at the end of it, it starts with teaching awareness.”
Along the route, walkers held up signs remembering their loved ones, some signs bearing pictures of friends and family, before congregating at Galt Gardens.
There, numerous speakers took the podium to address the crowd while musicians, including a drum band, also performed before the area around the Galt Garden stage was lit up with candles.
Among the participants was Wendy English, a resolution health support worker whose two grandchildren were murdered seven years ago.
“So I’ve been actively supporting this program that has been happening in supporting mothers who have lost their children and doing a lot of prayers, especially for the mothers who haven’t had closure or found their children.”
Over the weekend, members of English’s family also took part in a walk from the Piikani Nation to Calgary to raise further awareness.
The walk was spearheaded by English’s niece, whose daughter was murdered in Calgary over five years ago.
English said Monday’s vigil seems to be getting bigger with the support from the community.
“It’s part of reconciliation and supporting each other, helping each other and coming together as brothers and sisters,” she said. “We’re all human beings and we all go through the same hurt and the same pain. There are a lot of non-aboriginals who are also missing and murdered, we can’t forget them.”
Day Chief called upon the City of Lethbridge for heightened awareness of what is happening in the community and felt if that happens, there will be change.
“And if people can just put themselves in that situation, if they went missing themselves, how would they feel? How would their families feel?” he said.
“I guess I’m kind of pulling on emotional strings, but that’s the reality of it. First Nations people throughout this country and throughout North America, it’s been going on for years and when you hear of dozens and dozens of girls and women going missing in communities such as in the Dakotas or in the northern territories or anywhere, it opens one’s eyes.
“I just want to encourage the City of Lethbridge to really take action in this. I don’t like to say ‘reaction’ because it’s a negative tone. It’s being proactive within the community and just accepting one another because we all bleed red. We all breathe the air and we all need food and water to survive. So if we walk each day going forward knowing that and greeting each other, even with just a smile, a smile is very catchy, it’s contagious. I just want to encourage the City of Lethbridge and the citizens to really take note of what’s going on around them and to just accept each other.
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