On the traditional and ancestral land of the Wet’suwet’en, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women began this morning with a welcoming, prayers and a water song.
This time around the Commissioners are doing something a little different than their first visit in Whitehorse in May. Support staff, traditional medicines and better observance of local protocols have taken the forefront in the hearings, although they did keep on thing from Whitehorse- an Oath.
The Oath is informally called the Ladue Oath. Shaun Ladue swore to testify in Whitehorse, under the condition that the Commissioners would also take an Oath to swear they will listen to the stories from loved ones unbias, with open hearts and open ears.
Commissioners continued that Oath this morning before proceeding with the hearings and plan on continuing the Oath throughout their visits across the country.
The setting of the hearings is in the hall of the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre, on Third Ave in Smithers. The hall is dressed with the banners from the walkers who made their way along the highway from Prince Rupert to Smithers this past weekend to raise awareness. Family members and supporters in Smithers and the surrounding area are encouraged to come share their stories and solidarity for all those affected.
The hall is also dressed with ceremonial patchwork blankets that were created in Whitehorse by the families and supporters of lost loved ones. Those blankets and other artistic submissions will also be carried throughout the country with the Inquiry, then placed in an archive until returned back to the families and individuals who want them back.
In the centre of the testimonial area is a Miskwaabimaag basket, a ceremonial basket made from red willow, with a copper cup filled with water in the centre. The basket was created by a group of women in Manitoba and was gifted to the National Inquiry by the Red Willow Collective.
The basket represents minobiimaadiziwin, or where the good life of all begins. It is weaved with the red willow branches, which were harvested in a sacred site, to ensure its strength, as well as its beauty, and is lined with a red cloth to keep the stories and the items shared safe and protected.
It represents Kwe, women, and symbolizes continued connection to the land, language, and culture, as well as a visible reminder of women’s important role in building, strengthening and repairing relationships.
Women and families sharing their story are given Gifts of Reciprocity, in the form of seeds. These seeds chosen represent the seven regions of the country and were put together by Glenda Abbott, a traditional medicine bundle keeper and nehiyaw from Pelican Lake First Nation.
The seeds for the Northern BC region are those form the fireweed flower, which was chosen because it is a brilliant flower and is the first to grow in a burned area- a powerful symbol of healing and rebirth.
Throughout the rest of the hearings, families will be given wild and alpine strawberry seeds, wite sage seeds, alpine forget-me-not seeds, white yarrow seeds, and blue aster seeds. All of these seeds represent either beauty, sacred medicines, and for the strawberries strengthening the blood and heart.
The Inquiry will proceed throughout the rest of the day today, tomorrow and Thursday and will wrap up with a ceremony Thursday evening. The next stop on the Inquiry is Winnipeg Manitoba the second week of October.