Sacred fire, red handprint painting raising awareness

·2 min read

With plans for a sacred fire ceremony and an open canvas for community members to paint red hand-prints on, the Timmins Native Friendship Centre (TNFC) is hoping an event this week will further the calls for understanding and action.

May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S) people. To mark it, there's an open community event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the friendship centre located at 179 Kirby Ave.

"On this day we remember the people who have lost their lives to colonial, gender-based violence, and the families and communities that live daily with the grief of losing loved ones. Red is being used to call attention to the invisible," said Jaylin Renaud, TNFC aboriginal healing and wellness co-ordinator.

Renaud believes that the event holds further importance as an in-person gathering, making it a vehicle for providing communal strength and support to those who might otherwise find difficulty in participating.

"The day can be hard on people who have lost loved ones," she said.

When the canvas is painted, it will be hung up for later viewing. Renaud it can be part of extending the discussion of the issues at the heart of this day beyond a yearly moment of awareness.

"It has been some time since the calls to justice have been made. There has not been enough support and progress, and we need to hold all systems accountable to actually move forward," she said.

For those unable to attend the event, TNFC has a suggested list of ways to spread awareness on its Facebook page.

Renaud wants the community event to serve a purpose for healing and hope as well as facing sorrow.

"We want to support individuals going through trauma, especially women and children," she said, noting that her own ongoing work and those of her partners at the centre are meant to help Indigenous people deal with issues of violence and grief.

Renaud feels the use of the colour red underscores the meaning of the day as a time for individuals, families and communities to take strength and purpose from each other.

"Red is a colour spirits can see, which means it can be noticed by the loved ones and friends who have been lost to us," she said.

An independent, national 24-hour support line for people dealing with MMIWG2S issues is available at 1-844-413-6649

Mark Kay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com

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