This Valentine’s Day, at the start of the Highway of Tears, a candlelight vigil is being organized to remember, respect and honour murdered and missing indigenous people.
Three Prince Rupert women — who call themselves the Indigenous Mothers — are organizing the vigil in solidarity with Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George and other cities that hold an annual Women’s Memorial March. But this homegrown vigil has broadened its focus to consider all.
“It’s not just women, it’s everyone. It’s men, women, children. We wanted to memorialize them. Give them a voice and give recognition to the community that we know it’s happening and that we’re not going to let it happen anymore,” Mary Hill said, one of the Indigenous Mothers.
On Feb. 14, from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. the mothers are inviting people to meet by the bridge that connects McBride Street to the Highway of Tears, or beginning of 720km section of Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George where many indigenous women and men have been murdered or gone missing.
The vigil will be in time with the All Native Basketball Tournament, and all the teams and First Nations are also invited to come with their flags and drums.
“We want to do prayers and a smudging ceremony. That’s the beginning of the highway there. We want to bring good positive energy,” Hill said.
Ribbons of red, black and white will be handed out. The mother’s said the colours represent death, love and indigenous people and hope.
“We’re also looking for solutions. It’s like a call to action. We want to see all levels of government be proactive. Here in Prince Rupert we have all these industrial projects that are coming in and as mothers we’re worried,” Patrika McEvoy said, who is also organizing the vigil.
Both women said that if the liquefied natural gas developments go through they are concerned about the social aspects. The city doesn’t have a drug or alcohol treatment or detox centre. “Our people are suffering from intergenerational trauma from residential schools still and I don’t think we’re prepared for what is coming,” Hill said.
The Indigenous Mothers also reached out to Alberta William’s family and her sister plans to attend. Alberta Williams was murdered in 1989, her case is unsolved, and recently her story was featured in the CBC podcast “Who killed Alberta Williams?”
Hill’s family has also been affected — her mother’s cousin was murdered and she said her family is still healing from her death.
“We’re bringing life to stories that haven’t been talked about in years. We’re giving a voice to them and respecting them,” she said.
For more information visit the Indigenous Mothers’ Facebook page on the event.