Kainai Nation runners set out from East Coast on healing trek across Canada
Six people from the Kainai Nation in Alberta are running through the Maritimes on a cross-Canada journey of prayers and healing for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men.
The group, known as Napi's Run 2023 for MMIWM and Mother Earth, set out from St. John's on April 12 and plan to run 5,062 kilometres to Victoria, B.C.
They've been visiting First Nation communities along the way, like Abegweit on P.E.I. and We'koqma'q in Nova Scotia, hearing from other families about their loved ones.
"I just feel for them," said John Bare Shin Bone.
Bare Shin Bone has lingering questions about his great-nephew's death. Jovian Big Head-One Spot was 20 when he went missing on Tsuut'ina Nation near Calgary in December 2009.
Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service say Big Head-One Spot was in a car with six other people when it got stuck in the snow and he walked away from the vehicle. His body was found two weeks later not far from where he was last seen. The police say the medical examiner's office ruled the cause of death as cold exposure with alcohol intoxication as a contributing factor.
Ivy Annie Big Head, Jovian's mother, is still searching for answers around the events that led to her son's death. Big Head said her niece went to identify the body and told her it appeared Jovian had been in a fight as his face seemed bruised and his knuckles bloodied.
Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service said in an emailed statement to CBC News that no injuries were noted and any discolouration on the face could be attributed to frostbite. The statement said there was "no indication of any foul play."
'More than just exercising'
Lurlene Bare Shin Bone, a cousin of Jovian's, said she thought of him as a younger brother. When she heard he died, she said she began drinking heavily. Now, she's three years sober and began running just over a year ago to help deal with her intergenerational trauma.
She helps others in her community find healing as a harm prevention worker. Running is a way to deal with her pain in a healthy way, she said.
"I'm just noticing that I really am a strong woman," said Lurlene Bear Shin Bone, 40.
The runners try and average 60 kilometres a day as a group, each one running 10 kilometres a day. The runners are spreading other messages like Every Child Matters and awareness around the opioid crisis in their community.
Mackenzie Crosschild is a runner hoping to offer strength to his mother, Michelle, as she recovers from cancer.
"Running is more than just exercising, it's healing, and that energy just passes to everyone else," said Crosschild, 25.