I have many memories of long summers and winter holidays in my Mothers home community of Cross Lake Manitoba. It was the centre of my world before Hydro development forever changed the landscape and the people. My memories hold some of my greatest moments of joy and lifelong friendships. I always hold a connection to my family and the land and I am very protective of these memories of Cross Lake. Lorna Lynn Blacksmith and her family are from Cross Lake. It just rattled my being to know that such a young woman from my home had disappeared from the streets of Winnipeg.
The media portrayed her as a sex trade worker – just another Aboriginal woman who was responsible for her own misfortune. Her community remembered her as a dedicated army cadet, a strong and carefree young woman with dreams. With her family and community and many facebook friends, her picture was posted and reposted on facebook. We heard rumours that she was in Alberta. Community members went to Alberta to look for her. The Chief, Garrison Settee actively participated in efforts to find her and financially supported her family with the additional costs through this time. A facebook group was created, “Find Lorna Blacksmith” and each night, Cathy Merrick who is now Chief of Cross Lake would post a message of hope and conversation with Lorna. It was such a moving experience and an incredible example of how a community supports its members in stressful times. It was important to keep public interest in finding Lorna Blacksmith, so I wanted to help the family and the community in doing this work.
The Chief and Council and Women’s Committee of Pimichikamak (Cross Lake) supported community members to travel to Winnipeg to participate in the Womens Memorial March. At this march, we also handed out posters to bystanders to continue the public involvement in Lorna’s disappearance. It was very heart-wrenching to introduce the Blacksmith family to the Catcheway family. They belong to a group of parents that in growing to rapidly and few understand the constant pain of loss that is always in their memory. I met many other family members from various communities, many unresolved cases, many broken hearts that can not even begin to heal. I was humbled by their strength and resilience and most of all, by their faith. I saw how the support of the community was integral to their own strength. If all we can do to support the families of missing and murdered loved ones, is to walk a couple of city blocks, and it helps them. If this is what it takes to let them know they are loved and supported, then I can do this. I have no capability to investigate or have special powers, though I wish I had in this circumstance to bring their daughters and sisters home, but I can walk. I can use social media to continue to raise awareness of the issue of missing and murdered loved ones.
Mother Theresa is oft quoted by “doing small things with great love” and for the great love I have for my community and the memories it holds, this is the small thing that I can do. If we can all do a small thing, it can turn into something great. So we March on with great love for our missing and murdered sisters and their families in the hope of change.
Sandra DeLaronde, M.A., as been Executive Director of the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation since its inception in 2001. She is currently working on the development of a Women’s Indigenous Leadership and Research Institute (WILRI) that focuses on our rising as women.
She is an Indigenous Woman raised Metis with legal registration to Pimichikimak Cree Nation and darn proud of it!