Skidegate resident Zoey Collinson (right) and Sandspit resident Brenna Kowalchuk 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. (Facebook photos)

Skidegate resident Zoey Collinson (right) and Sandspit resident Brenna Kowalchuk 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. (Facebook photos)

Haida Gwaii women run Tears to Hope Virtual Relay for MMIWG

Zoey Collinson and Brenna Kowalchuk ran for MMIWG, including Kowalchuk’s niece Chantel Moore

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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read