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

Haitian foster children arrive in Nelson after months-long lobbying effort

Marie-Paule Brisson and Sebastien De Marre have parented girls age 12 and 8 since they were babies

Trail RCMP, coroner, investigating fisherman’s sudden death

The Maple Ridge man, in his 50s, died while fishing on a bridge near Trail

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Large police presence in Castlegar on July 9 involved man peeing on street

Three police officers responded to the incident near the Black Rooster Pub at around 1:30 p.m.

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Most Read