Songs and demands to search for murdered Indigenous women rang out through downtown Timmins this week.
Local organizers joined events held around the country yesterday (Sept. 18) for a #SearchtheLandfill walk. The goal is to have the Manitoba provincial government allow searches to look for the bodies of four Indigenous women, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and an unidentified woman who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman.
About 25 people gathered on Wilson Avenue on Monday morning to share songs and the impact of local events similar to those in Winnipeg, including the disappearance of Pamela Holopainen in 2003 after she left a Timmins house party.
Local organizer Tina Prevost said that the lack of care shown by the Manitoba government is unsurprising.
“How is truth and reconciliation supposed to begin when we can’t even go and bring those women home? How are their families supposed to have closure?” she said. “This is not the way to show respect to First Nations women or Métis women or Inuit women or any women for that matter!”
The turnout was more than she expected, nearly doubling what she had hoped for.
“I was looking for maybe 10 people to show up,” she said. “To double that in Timmins is really good. It’s about supporting the families out in Manitoba.”
Sheryl Macumber, who gave the opening prayer, shared an important message.
“We are all precious, and we need to remember that,” she said.
Education on the issues facing Indigenous communities and women in particular is something that is needed for those in positions of power, said Dale Tonelli from MP Charlie Angus’s office.
“There are a lot who are becoming more educated and more understanding,” he said. “We need to learn from our mistakes.”
While the walk from Wilson Avenue to the Timmins Native Friendship Centre was peaceful, there was an incident during the gathering around the sacred fire in front of the Kirby Avenue building.
An older white man confronted the gathering and, during that confrontation, grabbed a sign out of the hands of one of the youths present.
He eventually left the scene after two men from the friendship centre stepped in.
The incident highlights the work that needs to be done, said Prevost.
“The comments that are said, it’s very disgusting,” she said. “There is some support, but it’s a start, and we have to begin somewhere.”