A memorial held in Williams Lake on Friday, Feb. 14 to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited and others was the first of many, the organizer hopes.
Crystal Rain Harry, a Xat’sull First Nation band councillor, said up until now Williams Lake has not had a space to honour families who have lost loved ones through murder or who have disappeared.
“When you look up the Highway of Tears the first name you see is Gloria Moody. She was found murdered just outside of Williams Lake off Highway 20 in 1969. Her murder has never been solved.”
Loriann Tenale and her mom Mary Tenale were wearing red hoodies with the words ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ across the front and on the back a pattern honouring their close friend, Sabrina Rosette, who died at Tl’esqox First Nation in June 2019.
“Sabrina was like my sister,” Loriann said. “Nothing has been done about her murder. We want justice.”
Sheila Dick from 103 Mile House said she attended a vigil for Rosette at Toosey First Nation and was touched by the number of people who attended.
“I want to add my name to the list of planning these types events and hope I can do something in 100 Mile House as well,” Dick said.
Wanting to keep the memorial strictly about missing and murdered people, organizers asked anyone who showed up to respect the event’s intent as it was not a protest regarding the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which had been the focus of rallies on Wednesday and Thursday in Williams Lake.
“How can we protect Mother Earth if we cannot protect women and children in our communities?” Dyck said. “We have to work for our women and children first.”
Williams Lake Indian Band elder Virginia Gilbert was there with her daughter Frances, drumming and singing.
Her son and Frances’s brother, Gerald Supernault’s murder in 2008 at Sugar Cane has never been solved.
“I lost a son 11 years ago, he died from alcohol and drugs,” she said. “He was a very spiritual and helpful man and as I remember him I remember all our young men.”
Maggie Ranger of Horsefly said she hung a red shirt to remember all missing and murdered women as well as Tyler Walton from Williams Lake who disappeared in November 2009.
When it was her turn to lead a song, Dorothy Boyd, a clan mother, introduced and led a Tsilhqot’in Warrior Song.
“These are sacred songs we sing when people are in need of help,” she said. “I am dedicating this to all the ones who have passed away before us who were murdered or haven’t been found. A few men in my family are missing.”
The murdered, Boyd said, are already being taken care of by the ancestors and the Creator.
“We need to remind ourselves to walk with respect and dignity like they did,” Boyd added.
Rain said she also hopes to organize monthly drum circles in the future for all nations.