NORTH OKANAGAN - Meagan Louis is hoping for a turnout of 500 people for a walk to raise awareness about missing and murdered women in the North Okanagan.
The Vernon resident and member of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation says with three women missing from the Enderby and Salmon Arm areas, she wanted to do something to raise awareness about the issue.
“These women have been missing for a long time,” Louis says. “We want to draw more light to this issue and widen the circle for these families. We want them to know they are not alone.”
In the North Okanagan, Caitlin Potts has been missing for 14 months, Ashley Simpson for one year, and Deanna Wertz for nine months.
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Alongside Jody Leon of the Splatsin First Nation, Louis is organizing a walk to honour missing and murdered indigenous women of the Secwepmec and Syilx territories.
“What we want to do is start at the places where the women have gone missing. We’ll start our walk in Salmon Arm and walk all the way to Enderby and Vernon and then onwards to Kelowna to the last place Caitlin Potts was seen,” Louis says.
Details are still being worked out, but could involve participants either walking the entire route, or splitting the distance into five kilometre increments, Louis says.
“Our short-term goal is to get more people aware of the situation going on in the Okanagan. Our long-term goal is to get funding to make huge billboards with the pictures of these missing women and their information,” she says.
Louis’ own cousin disappeared on Feb. 11, 2007 in Regina, Sask., never to be seen again. Her family continues to search for her.
Of the three missing women in the North Okanagan, Caitlin Potts is identified as First Nations, and Deanna Wertz as part-indigenous. Ashley Simpson, whose family is from Ontario, is not First Nations.
“This land is indigenous. Just because she (Ashley) is non-indigenous doesn’t mean we don’t care about her. She’s gone missing in Secwepmec territory,” Louis says.
She says the walk is open to everyone and is tentatively set for May 20.
“You don’t have to be a woman or indigenous. You can be a man or woman of any race or colour, as long as you care about missing women here in the Okanagan,” she says.
She’s hoping for a massive turnout to the event.
“I’m hoping for at least 500,” she says.
Those interested in participating can watch for updates on the Facebook page Walk To Honour Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Of Secwepmec And Syilx. You can also email Louis at email@example.com.
“We need help, we need walkers, and we’re going to need donations,” she says.
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