To commemorate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, a walk is being organized through the city’s wooded trails.
Cyndi Pallen, one of the organizers of the event, said people in the qathet region will be joining Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, a substance abuse and trauma treatment centre in the Lantzville area on Vancouver Island, in honour of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
Pallen said people are already registering for the event and it will be open for whoever wants to run, walk or cycle on May 5. Because of COVID-19, participants will be scheduled five or 10 minutes apart in pairs rather than walking as one large group.
She is working with Powell River and Region Transition House Society, Tla’amin Nation, and hɛhɛwšin, which is the community movement that orchestrated the carving of a cedar canoe for the Tla’amin people as an act of reconciliation. Pallen said City of Powell River has approved red dresses to be displayed on city property, to commemorate the missing women and girls.
Pallen said red dresses have become part of the national awareness of MMIWG and she found out recently that in Germany, red dresses are being displayed.
“It is something else that they are doing this,” said Pallen.
A banner will also be displayed on Marine Avenue in the Willingdon Beach area, highlighting the commemoration.
Pallen said the event is a continuation of a 2019 event Tla’amin members were participants in, where a gathering was hosted at Willingdon. There was a walk on Marine and a candle-lighting ceremony and vigil. At the gathering, cedar was dropped into the Salish Sea.
Pallen said in 2020, because of COVID-19, there was not an event organized, but this year, a decision was made to join in with Tsow-Tun Le Lum to support the initiative.
Pallen said organizers will coordinate preparation of cedar branches, which are natural to the woods, and there will be paper dresses to mark trails the participants will walk through.
The walk is about an hour and 15 minutes, said Pallen. The loop will start at Laurel Street in Townsite, below Brooks Secondary School, through the trails to Willingdon Beach. Walkers will cross the street to the trails leading to Powell River Recreation Complex and then back down to Laurel Street.
Pallen said participants will carry cedar and can hang it by any of the dresses they encounter along the trail in remembrance of the families who have suffered.
“What I’m working towards is instilling a visual and mindful feature for people,” said Pallen. “It’s reflected in our culture of the Tla’amin people. The practice with cedar is cleansing and like offering a prayer or gesture. Cedar is really powerful.”
People interested in participating can call or text Pallen at 604.223.6965.
This is the first time this walk-run format to commemorate MMIWG has been conducted in the qathet region. Pallen said it is hoped the exercise will help participants be reflective of the effects MMIWG have had on indigenous nations and communities.
“It can be from a personal perspective or to honour others who have suffered,” said Pallen. “If we can do this in honour of the missing women and girls and their loved ones, it will be our way of being mindful of thinking about the families and things that have gone on tragically.”
She said it is important for participants to wear a mask and follow COVID-19 protocols. Participants are also instructed to wear a red shirt.