Roughly 80 in the Lakeland gathered and lit candles on Sunday night to remember and honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
October 4th marked the third annual Sisters in Spirit vigil at the Bonnyville Friendship Centre, as communities across Alberta came together to hold similar rallies.
“It was absolutely fantastic to see the support that we had from the community come out tonight,” said Janet Gobert community initiatives coordinator at the Friendship Centre.
“The numbers were great. It was fantastic.”
With Dene hand drummers, Grey Eagle Singers and the Poundmaker drum group, RCMP constable Katherine Hall, BFC executive director Laurie Fitzpatrick, Metis Nation of Alberta Region II vice-president Andrea Sandmaier, M.D. of Bonnyville councillor Marc Jubinville, and MLA Dave Hanson spoke during the ceremony.
“I thought it was pretty powerful when MLA David Hanson had said that this is a crisis. This absolutely is a crisis, but it’s a hidden crisis. And each one of us has voices, and each one of us needs to speak up,” said Gobert.
Those at the vigil tied red ribbons to the Friendship Centre teepee as a fire burned to remember and honour those lost.
Pictures of Indigenous women and girls from Alberta who are still missing or murdered were hung from trees, which tied the significance back to the local area.
As someone who works with Indigenous women, Gobert described the issues the Friendship Centre sees at the local level and how their programming looks to bridge that gap.
“We definitely see an issue of housing insecurities for women and young girls in the community, which many times can result in couch surfing and putting themselves in high-risk situations. Based on the services we offer we attempt to mitigate these risks by offering support services and appropriate referrals to agencies within the community.
“In my introduction to Shiloh Prosser’s poem, I touched on how there are women within our own community that could have been a statistic. What is encouraging with the MMIWG movement is that it is has given them a voice to say this is not okay and violence against women needs to stop.”
Shawna Okemow, critical incident stress management coordinator, spoke about how Indigenous women are three times more likely to face violence than non-Indigenous.
“I’m here today for my older sister who has had two of her childhood friends taken from her by the hands of terrible men. She’s now left with only memories of who they were and has been stripped away of witnessing who they will become. I’m here for my childhood friends, who I pray do not suffer the same fate that they have,” she said.
“I stand here as a commitment to continue to fight and to ensure that few of our future children know that violence isn’t our traditional way of life.”
There was also a vigil Saturday night in Bonnyville for Jacob Sansom and Morris Cardinal, who were slain north of Glendon in late March.