Some 200 members of Maskwacis First Nations members staged an 18 km. “Walking in Spirit” march from the Christian School in Ponoka to Samson nation on Thursday, July 17 in an effort to raise awareness on the depressing problem of suicides affecting the Cree communities.
Organizer of the walk, Mason Buffalo, said in the past three months alone five members of the Maskwacis First Nations, majority of them female, had committed suicide and that the march was aimed at not only honoring their memories but also attracting attention to the issue.
He described the main reason for these suicides as “loss of hope, no jobs, nothing to look forward to.”
Buffalo, who left his community a few years ago after his first cousin committed suicide and lived in Ontario before returning back, said this was the third march he had organized.
“In the first march from north, we walked from Wetaskiwin to Maskwacis and last year, in the second event, we walked from the east,” Buffalo said.
“After this year’s march from south, we will be completing the walk from the four directions by staging the march from the west next year,” he added.
Buffalo said his primary goal in organizing the march was “to bring this reality out of darkness instead of turning our heads the other way.”
“This is a way of bringing us together to let each other know that we are not alone in this healing journey.
Participants in the march donned red t-shirts with the names of the suicide victims written on them and some carried their photos on placards.