Joan Jack (left) and Charmaine Willier-Larsen started biking from Winnipeg more than 40 days ago. Their journey has taken them through the U.S. and up to Vancouver, in the shape of a medicine wheel. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Joan Jack (left) and Charmaine Willier-Larsen started biking from Winnipeg more than 40 days ago. Their journey has taken them through the U.S. and up to Vancouver, in the shape of a medicine wheel. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Two bikers ride across North America for missing and murdered Indigenous women

They passed through Interior B.C. as part of a roughly 20,000 km journey

Two Indigenous women are biking almost 20,000 km across North America to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“I knew in my heart I had to bike,” said Joan Jack.

Jack, along with her companion Charmaine Willier-Larsen started the journey in Winnipeg more than 40 days ago.

“This ride is saying I have been victimized, but I am not a victim,” Jack said in an Al Jazeera video posted on their Facebook page.

Estimates on the number of Indigenous women missing or murdered vary over the past few decades, but the number could be upwards of 4,000.

On each ribbon is a missing or murdered Indigenous woman. Jack and Willier-Larsen estimate they have over 60 ribbons, given to them by people missing a loved one. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

“If 4,000 white women had gone missing, we would have called in the army,” said Jack. She works as a barrister and solicitor in Winnipeg.

“I don’t know why we don’t live in a world where everyone matters.”

The two have rode through Ottawa, New York, Atlanta, San Diego, and Vancouver, in a large circle, similar to a medicine wheel.

“We do everything in circles. Tepees in a circle, the sun is in a circle. Our whole life is in a circle,” said Willier-Larsen in the Al Jazeera video.

The two will continue riding back to Winnipeg to finish the circle.

“It’s very important that we close the circle, that there are no gaps. So to empower and keep the energy in the circle,” continued Willier-Larsen.

Estimates vary, but there could be more than 4,000 murdered or missing Indigenous women in Canada over the past few decades. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

After more than three years, an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous woman issued it’s final report to the Canadian government in June, which included many recommendations and 231 calls to action for governments, police, and the Canadian public. The persistent pattern of abuses against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited people and LGBTQ individuals, can only be described as genocide the report concluded.

READ MORE: Missing women’s inquiry leaders reconcile Canada Day with ‘genocide’ finding

The inquiry found that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other demographic group in Canada. They are also 16 times more likely to be slain or to disappear than white women.

“We want to empower young girls and give them the tools to not become a missing and murdered girl,” said Willier-Larsen.

Jack added that most non-indigenous woman are murdered by people they know, compared to Indigenous woman who are slain by people they don’t.

READ MORE: Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Behind their bikes a trail of red ribbons flap. On each is a name, given to them by someone missing a loved one. As they ride, ribbons break free, fluttering in the breeze.

“Their spirit becomes free,” Willier-Larsen said.

Gwen Mitchells (left) from Edmonton, Alberta met her cousin Willier-Larsen at the Big Eddy pub yesterday. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Gwen Mitchell lives in Edmonton, Alberta and is Willier-Larsen cousin. She met the bikers yesterday at Big Eddy Pub.

Willier-Larsen has another frayed ribbon tied in her hair. This ribbon is to commemorate Mitchell’s grandma, who went missing many years ago. She was later found dead – a victim of colonization and residential schools said Willier-Larsen.

Mitchel points to the ribbon and notes the fraying strings.

“Grandma is getting shorter.”

The two cousins laugh.

Jack and Willier-Larsen aim to finish their ride by mid-July.


 

@pointypeak701
liamm.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Nelson city council conducted an online resident survey about patios and food trucks and got over a thousand responses. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson council hears results of survey on patios and food trucks

A city’s online survey got 1,130 responses

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

One of seven kitties rescued from a property east of Grand Forks Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks women rescue sick kitties from rural property

Kimberly Feeny and Lisa Valenta spent their Friday nursing seven cats rescued east of the city

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

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

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read