It was an afternoon of sharing stories, learning, healing and understanding the past.
A truth and reconciliation meeting was held Saturday, right after the Ramona Wilson Memorial Walk, at the Smithers library.
Members of the community listened as stories were shared.
One of the speakers was Birdy Markert, who grew up in the Wet’suwet’en community and said she had to leave that community in order to find her voice and make a difference.
While she shared her experience to the packed library, Markert expressed how racism is still present.
As part of moving forward, a shared histories project has been started. The project, which takes a better look at the history of Smithers, how people began to live in what was then called ‘Indiantown,’ along with what it was like to live in Smithers as a Wet’suwet’en person during the twentieth century.
For the past year, the research team led by Dr. Tyler McCreary has been collecting information relating to the Wet’suwet’en community from people who lived in Smithers from the 1920s up until the 1970s.
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said the shared histories project is the truth part in truth and reconciliation.
“What we’ve heard in talking to the hereditary chiefs over the past number of years is that there’s a piece of our history that hasn’t really been told,” he said.
A final report has yet to be published. The team expects to have more information on when it will be released in the coming months.
“It’s amazing to see so many non-indigenous people in a space to learn about indigenous issues because for far too long these stories have been our own stories and people really aren’t aware of how we’re treated in our own communities sometimes,” said Markert.
Highway 16 transit
A transit system, which will link communities to eachother in hopes of eliminating hitchhiking, is less than two weeks away from launching.
The bus service connecting Smithers to Moricetown (the community that Ramona Wilson was hitchhiking to before going missing) is already in use. The hope is that it will decrease the number of people who go missing and wind up murdered on the Highway of Tears.
Brenda Wilson, Ramona’s sister, was on the first bus ride to Moricetown.
“It’s been a great accomplishment. I got to ride on that first transit ride,” she said.
While the bus is currently running, Wilson said it needs to be affordable for those who need it.
“It’s also a matter of bringing awareness to that bus system and that it’s available and affordable — if it’s not affordable to some of the people that need to use it then we need to make it affordable and if that means some of the programs that exists,” she said.
The transit system linking Prince George, Burns Lake and Smithers will launch June 19.
Library director Wendy Wright said having the truth and reconciliation meeting on the same day as the Ramona Wilson Memorial walk was accidental and when they realized the error, they couldn’t change it.
“We started promoting this event, encouraging people to attend the walk first and come to the event late because we thought people would be interested in both and we wanted to make sure that no one felt they had to chose between events,” she explained.
Wright also said the library will not be booking any more events on the day of the Ramona Wilson Memorial Walk.