Singers at the Sisters in Spirit event sing a song before hosting a moment of silence on Oct. 4 evening. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Sisters in Spirit in Hope remembers missing and murdered Aboriginal women

The event was held Oct. 4 in Memorial Park.

Women came together to celebrate the Sisters in Spirit event on Oct. 4 at the bandstand in Memorial Park.

The event intends to raise awareness of the families involved in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry.

“The families in the inquiry are feeling … left out into the inquiry and this is to raise that awareness that there are problems in the inquiry and it needs to stop in its tracks now before it just keeps going and it snowballs,” said co-organizer Margaret Peters.

Peters explained that some family members aren’t being asked to share their stories and she feels that it’s important that these families share what they know and what they went through after a loved one goes missing or gets murdered.

“It was a failed inquiry … in all that time because it just concentrated on (serial killer Robert) Pickton, it took all that time away from the other families that they weren’t Pickton victims,” said Peters. “They need more time because two years is not enough to look at this whole picture. Look at how many there are missing, look at how many murdered.”

Asked whether anybody from Hope and area have gone missing, Peters said she has heard of one person, although could not elaborate because she does not have permission.

Peters explained that families involved in the MMIWG inquiry would ideally like to have more time, more funding and have certain commissioners removed from the inquiry.

Sisters in Spirit is a nationwide initiative with a goal to “conduct research and raise awareness of the alarming high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada,” according to their website. For Peters, that message resonates to her on a personal level.

“They also talk about the racism and just how some of the First Nations women are treated by RCMP, by society as well,” said Peters. “I can identify with that.”

The event started at 5 p.m. where speakers presented the background of the event and explained about the MMIWG inquiry. Afterwards, participants were asked to share their stories. The event ended with a moment of silence.

While this was happening, Indian Residential School Survivors Society resolution health support worker Sadie McPhee went around cleansing participants. By burning sage and brushing people’s body with a feather, McPhee explained that it helps cleanse auras and the spirit.

“What we’re doing today is taking away all the heaviness because of all the sadness and everything, so we smudge them so that when we go home, they’ll feel a lot better,” said McPhee.

McPhee said an event like this brings all the families together to an event that is often only held in Vancouver, which many people cannot attend.

“We have so many of our women around this area that haven’t been taken care of,” said McPhee. “They haven’t been acknowledged, so doing this here, in our home is helping our families to let the hurt and pain go.”