A uniquely designed stick has become symbolic and meaningful among first nations communities in BC. At an upcoming Tla’amin Nation ceremony, the simple stick will represent a commitment to actively stop violence against indigenous women and girls.
“The stick has white, black, yellow and red, and they all mean something,” said Tla’amin Health family support and wellness worker Sally Louie. “Red honours murdered and missing indigenous women, yellow honours our breath of life, black honours our body and white honours the knowledge and wisdom of the elders.”
Tla’amin’s Standing Up Ceremony for women and girls is, in part, the result of a grant from BC First Nations Health Authority.
According to Louie, it was the community’s idea to hold a one-day gathering to honour indigenous women. Louie said she hopes leaders, individuals, families and service providers from Tla’amin will share stories and ideas for empowerment.
“I hope to hear that our community is committed to speak up and stop violence if they see it,” said Louie. “I hope it empowers the women and young girls who are going to be there that we are behind them and here for them.”
Knowing where to go for sharing and counsel empowers women and is the first step in trying to stop violence that happens in Tla’amin, said Louie.
“It’s very quiet,” she said. “The ladies don’t want to come out or there’s the shame with any violence against anyone.”
Louie said that in a small community, victims of violence isolate themselves and it is hard for them to reach out to health providers.
The Standing Up Ceremony to stop violence against all indigenous women and girls is also a community’s voice in the national discussion, she added.
The Liberal government announced a cross-Canada inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in 2015. A committee has yet to begin hearings.
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, who represents 20 indigenous communities in the riding, wants the inquiry to ensure smaller, remote and rural areas will be listened to.
“I’ve definitely heard from the community that there are issues they want to deal with,” said Blaney. “I’m really impressed with them hosting the Standing Up Ceremony for women and girls. It’s a strong message to the community that violence against women and girls won’t be tolerated.”
The Standing Up Ceremony is open to members of the Tla’amin community and service providers and takes place 5-7 pm Thursday, February 16, at Tla’amin Salish Centre.