Cries of “No more stolen sisters!” could be heard throughout Port Alberni this week.
More than 100 people dressed in red and gathered for a walk on May 5, 2022 to mark the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Day of Action. Walkers departed from the n’aasn’aas?aqsa totem pole at Millstone Park and walked across town to Char’s Landing for food, speeches and songs.
The event was organized by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s (NTC) Teechuktl/Mental Health team. Lisa Watts, the MMIWG Family Support Worker for NTC, told the crowd on Thursday that more than 50 Nuu-chah-nulth women, girls and LGBTQ+ people have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances. Two Nuu-chah-nulth women remain missing, she added.
“We don’t know what happened yet,” she said. “This walk is to think of those ladies, think of your loved ones. Because there are more. We know that.”
The MMIWG Day of Action, or Red Dress Day, started out in 2010 as a project established by Métis artist Jaime Black to focus on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women across North America.
According to the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous women are three times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be victims of violence in their lives. The assembly also states that between 2001 and 2014, the average rate of homicides involving Indigenous women was four times higher than that of homicides involving non-Indigenous women.
Watts acknowledged before the walk that there are some Indigenous men and boys missing, as well. She asked walkers to keep all the missing people in their thoughts throughout the event.
“We want this to be intentional, mindful and loving,” she said.
The walk also took people past a red dress memorial on Roger Street for Nicola-Cree Belcourt. Belcourt, originally from the Lower Nicola Indian Band near Merritt, died under suspicious circumstances in early April near Millstone Park.
Port Alberni RCMP are still investigating to determine the cause of her death.