Thank you for the coverage you did of the Highway of Tears Symposium. It was a very important event, especially for families like ours, of the missing and murdered women of Highway 16.
When I saw the photo of my family that was used in one of the articles, I was struck by how different my memory was of the few minutes that we stood on stage to talk about our experience. This is no fault of the photographer’s just a reality of lived versus photographed experience.
We were the third or fourth family to speak on the morning of Thursday, March 30th, and the only family that isn’t from the Highway 16 area. All the other families brought up aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents etc. to share the stage, but we only had our immediate family there. To make us feel more supported, about seven or eight of the Gitxsan Spirit Walkers chose to stay on stage with us while we spoke to the audience of almost 500, and a bank of cameras and media a very intimidating and emotionally difficult task for each of the families that spoke.
Having the Gitxsan Walkers stand behind and beside us meant a great deal to my family. Even though we had only met them that morning, they made us feel like we had a brand new extended family there with us.
Unfortunately, you can’t see the Gitxsan Walkers in the original photo, and we appear to be alone on stage. For most of the time we were up there, a woman named Betsy had her arm firmly around me, and Judy grabbed one of my hands to help me through. At least six other people – William (Free Willy’), Christine, Rose, and Greg amongst them were right behind us.
I know that one of the biggest memories my mom, dad, brother and I will keep of the symposium was of the overwhelming warmth, support, and friendliness showed to us by other families going through the same thing, and members of all the Aboriginal communities along Highway 16 the Gitxsan Spirit Walkers included.
To all the organizers of the symposium, and to everyone who walked from Prince Rupert to Prince George to raise awareness, an enormous thank you. The media often mentions the fact that my sister is the only non-aboriginal woman of the official’ nine women missing, or murdered, on the highway (many people, my family included, believe the actual number of women could be over 30). What rarely gets mentioned though is the fact that we have always been embraced by aboriginal communities never made to feel excluded. The number of people who have shown us kindness and inclusion over the years is incredible. Neither photos, nor words, will ever adequately express it.