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West Shore students lead Red Dress March to honour Indigenous women, girls

As many as 4,000 Indigenous women have been killed or gone missing in Canada

WARNING: This details in this story may be triggering

The future led the past as students from School District 62 gathered on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people in Langford to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women on Friday, May 3.

“That really warms my heart,” said Marlene Clifton, a Gitksan woman who led the drumming at Ruth King Elementary School.

Ruth King, David Cameron, Savory Elementary Schools and Spencer Middle School students gathered at the Veterans Memorial Parkway Langford cenotaph for the Red Dress March.

“It is definitely a significant day. It was an honour to be a part of it,” said Ren Louie, from Savory Elementary in Langford, who helped with the drumming.

Discussion around reconciliation and the trauma facing Indigenous Peoples have grown around Canada, said Kendra Gage, executive director for Hulitan Family and Community Services Society.

According to Gage, growth has been significant, but efforts toward decolonization still need to be made.

Last year, the Red Dress march had two schools marching and it doubled this year, which brings a lot of hope to the Hulitan community, said Gage.

“It really fills my cup.”

In the audience was Sandra Seaweed, the grandmother of Carsyn Seaweed, who was found dead in Duncan under suspicious circumstances, according to a release from Duncan RCMP.

“She was murdered,” Sandra Seaweed said.

A sense of fear surrounds many Indigenous communities, said Louie, with people said to have committed suicide when there was no history of mental health concerns.

“You just worry that if that was you and your family, you wouldn’t be taken seriously,” Louie said.

Getting to dance, drum and sing is something that Louie was not able to do when he was at school and education of his Indigenous heritage happened outside school hours. But seeing the crowd gather for the Red Dress march fills him with hope.

“It’s so cool to see,” Louie said.

The growth of the march and the continuing discussions around reconciliation have been something that Langford Coun. Colby Harder, who was at the march, is happy to see.

“It’s gotten to the point where we all know this is true. And we need to continue educating people to ensure that it’s not forgotten,” Harder said.

Indigenous issues have garnered more attention in the last three years as more and more Nations have conducted searches for mass graves at former residential schools throughout the country.

“I think it’s just really leading the way and leading the conversation by getting everyone to the streets,” Harder said.

As many as 4,000 Indigenous women have been killed or have vanished across Canada, many along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears, in northern B.C. around Gitksan territory.

“We are actually from the Highway of Tears,” Clifton said.

Clifton sang and danced with the Hulitan community, encouraging the children to join.

“We’re going to give thanks for the lives of our murdered and missing Indigenous and all women who have gone missing.”

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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