New totem pole honours missing, murdered Indigenous women in Nanaimo

New totem pole honours missing, murdered Indigenous women in Nanaimo
WatchA moving ceremony took place in Nanaimo Friday, to bless and unveil a new totem pole dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Skye Ryan has more.

Sarah Miller had strong feelings when taking in a new totem pole dedicated to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, including her friend Lisa Marie Young.

“Here we are 20 years later she’s still missing, her family’s still without answers,” said Miller. “I don’t want to give up hope, I don’t want to say that we’ll never find answers.”

The cedar totem pole, which features an Indigenous matriarch as well as an eagle, was unveiled at Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre Friday during a ceremony that featured a blessing, drumming and dancing. It was carved by Snuneymuxw father and son duo, William and Joel Good.

“On the top, it has the eagle that’s carrying these women to heaven,” said Snuneymuxw carver William Good.

The stunning totem pole serves as a towering reminder of the women and girls from the area who have never come home — something that is depicted by a crying woman, and an eagle.

“It’s so, so important because I always get notices about women that are missing, little girls that are missing and it’s so sad because a lot of the time they are not found,” said Grace Elliott-Nielsen, who leads the Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre.

The goal of the pole is to give the families of missing and murdered women, a place to grieve since many of them don’t know what happened to their loved one.

“There needs to be many names where people keep remembering the girls,” sad Elliott-Nielsen.

One of those women is Marie Young. The beautiful 21-year-old went missing on June 30, 2002, after she left a house party with a man in a Jaguar. Police suspected murder has never been solved.

“I never forget her, and I never forget her face and that’s one person that I think is a spirit that’s ready,” said Elliott-Nielsen.

Marie-Young’s name will soon be added to the memorial, as this community keeps longing for the closure it needs.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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