Over the weekend, Central Park in so-called Merritt B.C. will be adorned with drummers, singers, and dancers from the Butterflies in Spirit dance group, all there to honour the lives and spirits of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S).
The rally will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, explains Danielle Jack, one of the organizers.
After opening ceremonies, she says the plan is for attendees to march down Voght Street — effectively shutting it down. Then they will return to the park where First Nations leaders and local politicians are scheduled to speak about the ongoing issue of violence against Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people.
Jack says that now is the time for politicians, police services, and allies to show up, support and listen to Indigenous women when they say they are not safe.
She says she was compelled to organize this rally because of an experience she had in Merritt in January, when she was walking to her car and three men pulled up and attempted to abduct her.
“It happened to me on January 14. I was just walking to my car and was almost abducted,” Jack tells IndigiNews, after taking part in a smudging ceremony on the shore of Nicola Lake in Nlaka'pumux territory.
“I feel like there’s not enough education or awareness out there, just with the heightened safety needs we have to have now. You can’t even walk to your car without getting nearly abducted,” she says.
Jack says the incident made her feel voiceless. She didn’t want to go to the police because she doesn’t feel she can trust them after witnessing so much injustice.
“I fought and I screamed and it’s like I was screaming but no one could hear me,” she says. “I didn’t report it to police. Instead, I took it to social media.”
Jack’s story is one of courage, bravery and strength. While her latest experience of violence is only one motive for helping to organize the rally, she says it has amplified her desire to raise awareness of the issue.
Jack says it’s important for people to have a safety plan in place for the rally on Saturday as she will be sharing her story in full.
People have been asked to bring drums, songs, prayers, and open hearts and minds to listen to the messages that will be shared at the event, she says.
Kelsie Kilawna, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse