Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society honors MMIWG2S

Dozens of people from throughout the Kelowna community packed the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society on syilx territory on May 5 to honor and raise awareness around missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S). missing and murdered indigenous women

May 5 has been designated as the National Day of Awareness and Action for MMIWG2S, and the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society observed the day with a community ceremony. The event included prayers, drum songs, a feast, open mic speakers and a march to the Kelowna Law Courts building.

The ceremony began with a prayer from Wilfred Barnes, a syilx Elder who shared teachings, saying that it is sometimes easy for people to get lost in their grief.

Rain droplets run down a red dress covered in a plastic tarp that hangs from the exterior of the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society building on May 5. Photo by Aaron Hemens

“Especially this time of year when we’re honoring the murdered and missing young girls, women and boys,” Barnes said. “They’re very close to our heart, and we’ll never forget that. Ever. ”

Barnes reminded those in attendance to recognize the support they provide to others.

“I see a lot of our people that have really big hearts that help each other out. They come through when the going gets tough, ”he said. “We depend on each other and we look out for each other. That’s what I see in this room. It’s a room full of people with big hearts. ”

Krystal Lezard, a syilx artist and Westbank First Nation member, was the ceremony’s lead singer and drummer for women. Following Barnes’ prayer, Lezard honored the territory by singing the Okanagan Song, which was followed by speeches made by guests.

Representatives from city, RCMP share words

Mohini Singh, a Kelowna city councilor, said the community has a collective responsibility to look after each other.

“It’s important we look out for each other because that person walking on the street on that cold, dark night could well be missing the next day. Just remember that, ”said Singh.

“Thank you for honoring the memory of those who are missing and have been murdered… this has to end.”

Drummers raise their sticks in the air outside of Kelowna Law Courts on May 5, after marching to the building in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people. Photo by Aaron Hemens

Cpl. Michael Kube of the Kelowna RCMP was in attendance and was invited to say a few words. He said that acknowledging the RCMP’s deep roots in colonialism and its history of perpetuating violence against Indigenous peoples is not enough.

“I pledged myself to affect change within the organization, the RCMP, from within. To try to educate all of our people about the history and injustice done by the RCMP, to work together to right the past wrongs and to build a better relationship with the community we owe it to, ”Kube said.

“We owe it to those beautiful souls.”

Ripples of change

Edna Terbasket, the executive director of the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, thanked Kube for attending and speaking at the event.

“When you spoke, I felt that pain. I felt that when you had some emotion there, that you’re there for a reason, ”Terbasket said.

“Your commitment to change where you’re at will create that ripple effect that will make it easier for us to have that real truth and reconciliation.”

Following speeches and prayers, youth and other guests volunteered to help deliver food from the kitchen into the hands of those who attended, as part of the ceremony. During this time while the rain fell, folks pulled out their pumín (hand drums) and began walking together to the to the Kelowna Law Courts building, singing honor and prayer songs along the way.

A crowd of more than 20 people depart the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society for the Kelowna Law Courts building on May 5 in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people. Photo by Aaron Hemens

After the walk, the ceremony ended with an open mic segment. Some honored the memories of those they know who are missing or whose lives have been taken. Others called for more action to prevent harm against Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.

Barbara Jagodics, the employment services coordinator at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, said that while she spent several years fighting for MMIWG2S, she wants more support from the community so they can take action together.

“But what can I do? I can help make sure they don’t get lost, they don’t fall through the cracks, “said Jagodics.

“If anyone wants to join me in my fight to help bring a group together and start helping with younger ones, something – to something. I don’t know what that looks like. I can’t do everything by myself. I need my brothers and sisters’ help here. ”

A person wearing a red dress in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people walks in the rain to the Kelowna Law Courts building on May 5. Photo by Aaron Hemens

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