Akisqnuk First Nation creates community quilt

·3 min read

As we enter the month of May, we have more reminders in the Columbia Valley community of the ongoing violence, struggles, and inequalities that Indigenous people have faced and still do today even as steps are made towards truth and reconciliation. With May 5 marking Red Dress day and May 12 marking the Moose Hide Campaign Day, the Akisqnuk (Ktunaxa) First Nation is taking a stand by constructing a quilt to comfort, honour, and show support.

Red dresses will be on display from May 4 to 6 to bring awareness and honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), while the following Thursday (Moose Hide Campaign Day) acts as a call to action for men and boys to take a stand against the violence against Indigenous women and children.

“In the past two years there has been so much information going out to the public regarding Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, children in residential school and the finding of unmarked graves in and around them,” says Patsy Nicholas project organizer and Health Program Manager of the Akisqnuk First Nation. “These headlines influence me, in many ways. As I process my own thoughts and feelings, I wonder how the rest of the community has been dealing with theirs. My thought was to try something different, and put together a quilt, I have seen beautiful work done in the past.”

Presently, Nicholas has three squares for the quilt completed. She is asking members of the Akisqnuk First Nation to do their own square in support of Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) or in support to all who attended residential schools in the past. With the recent findings of the 93 possible unmarked graves in Williams Lake and St. Eugene’s being so close, these constant reminders hit too close to home for many. These residential schools are in very close proximity to the Ktunaxa (Akisqnuk) First Nation whose territories span about 70,000 km2 in and around the Kootenays and the Columbia River.

“The quilting project has been a work in progress since 2020,” says Nicholas. “There hasn’t been a discussion as to when we aim to complete the quilt. Right now, our focus is still just working on gathering quilt squares.” 10” x 10” fabric squares were distributed with the Akisqnuk newsletter to every home on the mailing list in the community. More squares are available on request but Nicholas shares that any material can be used to design one’s piece that will later become a part of a grand mosaic. Completed squares can be mailed in or dropped off at the Akisqnuk Administration office or at their Health Centre. The completed quilt will hang proudly in the new health centre once it is built. “Until that time, there will be many other available places for us to showcase this work,” shares Nicholas.

Nicholas will continue to collect squares as she considers other opportunities on how the community can get involved. There are over 300 registered members of the Akisqnuk First Nation. Once 50 to 100 quilt squares have been submitted, then a group will be formed to start putting ideas to work with the construction of this quilt.

The idea is not only to showcase support for those affected, but also to offer healing and comfort for community members. “With living in an Indigenous community there have been healing opportunities,” says Nicholas. “However not all were ready at that time or have had issues that come up later in their life. Like we see today, there are constant reminders which come in all forms, like television, newspaper articles, and even in our own dreams.”

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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