Sisters in Spirit Walks held around region

Laura Giroux holds up a red dress sign of her late sister, Donna Giroux.

Driftpile remembers

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Sadly, like many others, Laura Giroux knows first-hand the purpose of the Sisters in Spirit Walk.

“That was my late sister,” she says referring to the name on a paper red dress she carried during the walk.

Her late sister was Donna Giroux, who passed away in November 2014 in a fire. The fire was not caused by her husband, but still an act of violence.

“That’s why I’m stepping up,” she says.

Nancy Chalifoux works for Driftpile First Nation and organized the Sisters in Spirit Walk, the first held in the community. She contacted the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women organization and they sent her a package to prepare for the walk.

In addition, 13 red dresses were hung in the Driftpile Community Hall. She explains one red dress represents 100 reported cases but she added another to represent the many more not reported.

“The government says there are 1,200 [cases] but we know it’s more than that.”

Red is the chosen colour to represent the walk and the cause.

When she addressed the 100 attending before the walk, she urged all parties to “break the violence”.

“It is our hope [this walk] continues each Oct. 4,” she said. “We must never forget.

“We have families here who need our support. We need to honour and support the families each and every day of the year.

“We need to grieve and heal,” she concluded.

She then went into details of her mother’s death. Despite the death occurring in 2001, no investigation took place until 2017.

“There was blood in her truck. Her wallet was discovered in a shed in this community. Thankfully, [Lesser Slave Regional Police Service] took up the investigation. No one has ever been charged.”

Charmaine Larsen spoke, fresh off a 16,000 km motorcycle ride to bring awareness to the issue.

“No more stolen sisters,” she said.

Avis Giroux’s sister lost her son, Rupert, in a distracted driving accident.

“An innocent child,” she said.

“It’s taken a long time for his mother to come back from this trauma.”

Guest speaker Henry Watchmaker spoke and offered words of comfort.

“You can never kill the spirit when a life ends,” he said. “Keep on living, keep on surviving.”

Nahachick remembered in Peace River

Peace River celebrated its 17th annual Sisters in Spirit Walk Oct. 4. Above, a closing round dance highlighted the walk. Peace River Mayor Tom Tarpey spoke at the event, while Northern Sunrise County Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba and deputy reeve Norm Duval attended. Melissa Cardinal spoke on behalf of her sister Brittany about Jordan Nahachik, who went missing from Peace River last December. Men are now being included in the Sisters in Spirit ceremonies.

United front shown in High Prairie

Red hands are “painted” over Lisa Roberts, left, and Lennon Cardinal. The red hands signify a hand being over the mouth so the victim cannot speak. Roberts lost her mother, Evelyn Roberts, in 1978. The case remains unsolved.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

On such a sad and somber occasion, Belinda Willier could not have been more pleased.

Willier literally gushed with pride about how the Sisters in Spirit movement has grown locally since the High Prairie Friendship Centre started the first walk 11 years ago.

“We are growing,” she says. “The word is spreading!”

The first walks attracted less than a dozen people. Well over 50 attended the High Prairie walk, over 150 in Kinuso and 100 in Driftpile. Other walks were held in Peace River, Slave Lake and Valleyview. Another is planned for Peavine.

The Sisters in Spirit Walks bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“As part of our commitment to the issue and to the countless families who are still in need of justice, the Native Wowen’s Association of Canada is a lead organizer in the Sisters in Spirit vigils,” says Willier.

“We gather to honor our lost sisters and their families.

“We gather to show we are a united front.

“We gather to shed light on a crisis that affects every Canadian and we gather to pressure all levels of government to act and act now!”

A video was shown highlighting the loss of local Indigenous women including Brenda Moreside, Agnes Rose Chalifoux, Carmen L’Hirondelle, Angeline Willier, Nina Joseph and Jackie Murdock. It is updated each year.

Willier reminds everyone that the Sucker Creek Women’s Shelter offers a safe and supportive environment for battered women and their children, women in crisis, or other women in need of emergency accommodations.

Schools lead the walk at Kinuso

Drummers lead the Sisters in Spirit Walk at Kinuso on Oct. 4. Students from Swan River First Nation School and Kinsuo School [Grades 7-10] participated.

Pearl Lorentzen
For South Peace News

River of Silence writer Petie Chalifoux was part of the Sisters in Spirit event held by Swan River and Kinuso Schools.

Chalifoux’s grandmother is one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. Petie’s grandmother’s case is unsolved, but has been reopened.

Petie is a film writer, hoop dancer and Swan River First Nations School graduate. She wrote Rivers of Silence, which is a film about a family’s search for their missing daughter.

The film was shot in 2016. The world premiere of the film was at the 2018 Skins Film Festival in Los Angeles. The film hasn’t been released widely in Canada. Stan Isadore from Driftpile First Nation is one of the main actors.

Students in Kinuso walked from the Kinuso School to the Swan River School at 11 a.m. Oct. 4, to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The event was organized by Swan River and Kinuso Schools.

Drummers drummed the whole walk and did an honour song while Petie performed a hoop dance.

Nancy Chalifoux, Petie’s mother, spoke about her mother’s murder. The message was to look out for each other and the hope that this never happens to anyone else.

Lunch was served at Swan River School and the school showed River of Silence.

Around 150 people attended, including all of the Swan River students and Grades 7-10 from Kinuso School.

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