Blood Tribe emergency personnel don heels for annual domestic violence awareness walk

Blood Tribe emergency personnel take part in an annual walk to raise awareness of domestic violence. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
Blood Tribe emergency personnel take part in an annual walk to raise awareness of domestic violence. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

Black, turquoise and leopard print heels clicked against the pavement in Stand Off, Alta., Thursday as Blood Tribe emergency personnel took part in an annual walk to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Some participants held signs reading "Stop Family Violence," others spoke on megaphones about the support residents can find in the community.

It's the first year Dana Chief Dody, acting inspector of operations with the Blood Tribe Police Service, has taken part in the event.

"It was challenging. It was tough," he said. "It was totally different from what I'm used to."

Beyond the footwear, Chief Dody — whose Blackfoot name is Akoohpataki — says it's important for the community to see them taking part in the initiative.

"Just to know that … they can reach out to us, and if they ever need help we're there to help as well and to get them through if they're experiencing domestic violence or family violence in their homes," he said.

"This is something that we deal with quite a bit."

The Kainai Women's Wellness Lodge, which provides emergency shelter and support to the community, has held awareness walks for nearly a decade as part of family violence prevention month, marked each November.

At first, just staff and other community partners took part, but four years ago they brought in local police and fire units, naming the campaign, "Walk in Her Shoes."

WATCH | Kainai community takes part in "Walk in Her Shoes" event:

Doris Lowhorn — whose Blackfoot name is Niiyooskaiaoiyakii — is manager of the Kainai Women's Wellness Lodge. She says when she asked men in the community to wear heels, she wanted to connect them to some real-life situations.

"I was telling them, well, now you'll know when a woman flees through the snow the footwear they have or some have nothing on, no shoes. So it's like, this is a taste of how it feels," she said.

Each year, she says about 300 women and up to 100 children use the emergency shelter, and those statistics are continuing to trend upwards.

Taking their message to the community encourages people to speak up when they know someone is in trouble, she says.

"A lot of people before, back in time, it was nobody's business what goes on behind closed doors, but now it's everybody's business and that's why we say be a voice for someone," she said.

"You don't think it happens to people, but it does."

About 40 people took part in the walk this year. Lowhorn says she hopes more of the community will join them next time.

Chief Dody, for one, says he will be there.

"It's definitely a good initiative to have and to be a part of."

Those who need assistance can reach the Kainai Women's Wellness Lodge at 403-653-3946, the Blood Tribe Police Services at 403-737-3800 and victim services at 403-737-8814.