Cree woman takes a walk against lateral violence in Hope

Isabel Okanese has embarked on a cross-country walking tour to bring awareness about the violence issues that plague First Nations people.

Isabel Okanese spends a day in Hope

Isabel Okanese bravely began a cross-country walk to reach out to the country on the issue of lateral violence. Lateral violence is prevalent among First Nations according to the soft spoken 43-year-old medium, who gave up her home and job to embark on a powerful journey and to send a message to Canada about the pain and conflict among her own people.

“I let the spirits guide me,” she told The Hope Standard about her mental fortitude and the strength she has maintained throughout her extensive travels.

Tensions between non-status and Metis First Nations are heavy and the Victoria native who passed through Hope recently on her Miyo-wicehtowin (living in harmony together journey) said that discrimination is high among her people as well as the outside community.

The creative and intuitive medium dropped out of art school after being ostracized so severely that she couldn’t cope with being the only native person in her class. This, unfortuantely is an all too common situation among First Nations people. Okanese, who is an Oji-Cree from central Alberta began her tour on May 5th at Mile Zero in Victoria, B.C., and will complete more than 6,000 kilometres and eight provinces across Highway 1 at the finalization of the tour in Halifax, Nova Scotia, sometime in October.

“We got yelled at in the streets of Chilliwack, but Hope has been very good so far,” said Okanese of the response she’s received.

Lateral violence stems from colonization and acts as an umbrella for several abuse platforms including verbal, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical violence according to the activist. Okanese has experienced all forms of lateral violence in her life, including the aboriginal community who shunned her family based on the stripping of their Indian status and as a consequence were thrown into the category of non-status people.

“This has been hurtful — I have had teachers tell me I was a dirty Indian and my own people say that I don’t look or act native.”

Backstabbing, gossip and seclusion have been par for the course, which has ignited the Oji-Cree to practice patience, respect, tolerance and teaching in her own life — it also inspired the dream she is realizing mile-by-mile in a pair of bare-foot shoes to impart the message to others that violence can be quelled with understanding.

“We need to do a lot of healing and come back together as one family,” she said.

Okanese smudges every morning before she walks and has a taken a vial of water from Victoria, which she plans to put into the Nova Scotian coastline as a symbol taken from the sweat of her coast to coast journey in a stance toward unification.

“How can we expect others to stop their hatred against us, if we can’t stop fighting amongst ourselves — if we stop the fighting we can begin to bridge those gaps and to heal.”

Just Posted

Volunteers risk their lives to save others

SAR training prepares them for the job

Many moving parts to economic development

Tourism is only part of the answer

Window art a sign of the season

B.C. artist paints windows across the province

Get all your stocking stuffers, and the stockings, too

Beta Sigma Phi Christmas Craft Sale returns

VIDEO: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

This year’s event featured six stops, including viewing points and activity centres.

Vigil held for woman whose remains were found on Shuswap farm

Family and friends remember Vernon resident Traci Genereaux and along with five other missing women

Brewers create anti-fascist ale

Not For Nazis Nut Brown Ale made in the Shuswap will be ready in time for Christmas

LETTER: Jumbo Valley is part of Ktunaxa territorial claim

Ktunaxa Nation Council responds to Tom Fletcher column

Union contests layoffs at Maple Ridge motel

Demonstration planned for today at former Quality Inn

3,800-plant grow-op busted on First Nation reserve

Three men face charges after RCMP bust a large drug operation on the Soowahlie Reserve near Chilliwack

VIDEO: Government approves funding of $750,000 drug for B.C. woman

Approval comes one day after province announces funding for Soliris on a case-by-case basis

B.C. boy’s social media bid to get levidrome in the Oxford dictionary goes viral

‘It’s been five weeks and has totally blown up today.’

Huge grain, potash terminals proposed for Fraser Surrey Docks

Surrey’s mayor is embracing the projects, but Delta’s mayor has concerns about emergency crew access

Most Read