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)

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

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News file)
People aged 30+ in Rutland, Summerland offered vaccine amid high transmission risk

Interior Health offers residents of Kelowna’s Rutland area and Summerland aged 30 and up chance at vaccine

Alex Hegedus (left) with his wife and two young children. (Contributed/Kelowna RCMP)
Family offers reward for information about Peachland man’s suspicious 2018 death

Alex Hegedus died under suspicious circumstances in March 2018

Al Kowalko shows off the province's first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Okanagan schools shifting gears to electric buses

Vernon, Central Okanagan, Rocky Mountain and Okanagan-Skaha on board

Flooding around the entrance of Mission Creek into Okanagan Lake has been a reflection of the impact of climate change on the spring snowmelt across the Okanagan Valley watershed. (File photo)
B.C. water sustainability plan pitched to Okanagan stakeholders

Seeking resolution to water and land-use conflicts

A woman checks out a jobs advertisement sign during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto in April 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Kelowna’s unemployment rate jumps in April, remains one of Canada’s lowest

Kelowna had the fifth-lowest unemployment rate of major centres across the country in April

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The postponement of the event was put in place to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

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

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

Lake Country firefighters assisted the RCMP on Kalamalka Lake Tuesday, May 4. (Fire Department file photo)
Okanagan RCMP interrupt houseboat break-in

Pair in their 30s arrested but no charges laid after alleged Kalamalka Lake incident

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz getting his COVID-19 vaccination on April 5. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke is leading B.C.’s interior on vaccinations: Interior Health

Approximately 70% of the community has first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

An unused fruit stand at Highway 97 and Road 1 went up in flames Thursday night. (Oliver Fire Department)
Abandoned South Okanagan fruit stand fire considered suspicious

The timing of the midnight fire is one reason the fire is suspicious

Most Read