Sandspit resident Brenna Kowalchuk (left) and Skidegate resident Zoey Collinson each ran 10 kilometres on Saturday, June 13, 2020 as part of the Tears to Hope Virtual Relay to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, including Kowalchuk’s niece Chantel Moore. (Facebook photos)

Aunt of Chantel Moore runs virtual relay on Haida Gwaii for MMIWG

Brenna Kowalchuk was also inspired by another Haida Gwaii woman who ran for MMIWG, Zoey Collinson

Two Haida Gwaii women ran in the Tears to Hope Virtual Relay on June 13.

The second annual run was organized by the Tears to Hope Society, with the goal of raising awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

Last year teams from communities along Highway 16, including Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers, ran a more traditional relay, passing along a deerskin scroll inscribed with a “Message of Hope.” However, the society organized a virtual run this year due to COVID-19.

ALSO READ: Students at Cariboo school remember missing, murdered women with interactive shoe memorial

ALSO READ: Old Massett hosts first Sisters in Spirit vigil

Skidegate resident Zoey Collinson, who will be going into Grade 11 at Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay Secondary School next year, set off from the hospital in Daajing Giids around 7 p.m. on Saturday and ran 10 kilometres to Balance Rock in Skidegate.

Collinson said she found out about the virtual relay from her mother Natasha, who rode a bicycle behind her as she ran.

“As an Indigenous person I thought it was an important cause to spread awareness,” Collinson told the Observer. “I think it’s important because lots of Indigenous girls go missing every year.”

While Collinson said she regularly goes for 4-kilometre runs, her route on Saturday was the longest she had ever attempted.

“My feet started hurting really bad, but I pushed through,” she said. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

She arrived at Balance Rock around 8 p.m. and went for a swim near the Haida Heritage Centre.

“That was really nice, refreshing.”

She said she was also grateful for her dad and sister, who drove along the route, stopping to give her water.

“It was nice having them support me and my mom biked alongside me most of the entire way,” she said.

Other family members also cheered for her when she past their home and held up signs.

“They were singing Haida songs too, which was cool,” she said.

ALSO READ: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Sandspit resident Brenna Kowalchuk also ran 10 kilometres from the harbour to the airport to Hardingville.

Kowalchuk had seen on social media that Collinson was planning to run the virtual relay, and “knew immediately that [she] also needed to participate” to raise awareness for MMIWG, including her niece, Chantel Moore.

Moore died on June 4 in Edmundston, New Brunswick after being shot by police during a well-being check.

ALSO READ: Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

“Recently I’ve been learning more about my paternal family and slowly meeting them,” Kowalchuk told the Observer, adding that she met her father 17 years ago for the first time.

“My paternal family is Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. I have an older half-sister, who I have not yet met and two weeks ago, her daughter was killed by an RCMP officer in New Brunswick. Chantel Moore.”

Through Moore’s death, Kowalchuk said she is learning more about MMIWG.

“Although we represent a lower percentage overall in the population, we are going missing or being murdered at a much higher rate than non-Indigenous women,” she said. “I have a one-year-old daughter myself and this scares me so much.”

She added that she was not prepared to run 10 kilometres — it had been at least two years since she had run that far.

“But knowing that families are never prepared to lose their female family members, I felt like it was the least I could do to bring some awareness to MMIGW,” she said.

Her five-year-old son rode his bike behind her and along the way, a friend sent her a Haida song, and others cheered her on and asked if they could join.

Next year Kowalchuk said she hopes to help organize a bigger Tears to Hope Relay Run on Sandspit.

According to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which was delivered to the federal government in 2019, the lives of thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been lost in Canada to a race-based genocide empowered by colonial structures.

— With files from Natalia Balcerzak

ALSO READ: All Canadians have a role to play in ending MMIW ‘genocide,’ report says

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
karissa.gall@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

MMIW

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Business notes: Downtown Duncan open-air food court opens

What’s happening in Cowichan’s business community

Documentary on legendary Chief Tzouhalem to be filmed in Cowichan

Film is the latest project by Drama Camp Productions

West Shore RCMP arrests five suspects in multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking investigation

Cocaine, prohibited loaded handgun, weapons, stolen vehicles seized

Bottle drive Saturday to assist sick Cowichan teenager and family

Sammy Dubois, 14, disgnosed with rare neurological disorder

Editorial: Alternative approval process is not the enemy

Not everything should go to a referendum.

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Most Read