British Columbia

MMIW to be memorialized by 24-hour drumming event

Students in Mount Boucherie Secondary's Aboriginal leadership program in West Kelowna want to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women by playing traditional drums for 24 hours.

Student Mercedes Laboucan Dene's sister went missing in 2013 from Edmonton

Left to right: students Breanna Edwards and Mercedes Laboucan Dene and teacher Kyla Winacott are putting on the 24-hour drumming event on May 6. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

For 24 hours this weekend, traditional Aboriginal drums will pound in West Kelowna, B.C., in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The drummers are Mount Boucherie Secondary students in grades 10 to 12 in the school's Aboriginal leadership class. They will take turns on the drums beginning Friday morning.

The 24-hour drumming events have been a tradition for several years at Mount Boucherie, but this year's event has special significance: one student's sister is one of Canada's thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

"Her name's Shelley Tanis Dene. She went missing in 2013 in Edmonton," Mercedes Laboucan Dene told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"It's hard because you don't know if they're alive or…." Dene said, trailing off.

"Sometimes I think that she's always with me even though I don't know where she is. She's always with me."

Dene's fellow student, Breanna Edwards, has organized the event for the past three years and says it's important for spreading awareness.

"I think it's really important that youth, and even adults, who have Aboriginal ancestry know about these problems. Because with the media everything's covered up and no one knows much about anything," she said.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Friday morning at Sensisyusten Gym in West Kelowna. The event is open to the public until 10 p.m., and visitors are invited to bring their own drums to join in.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Students to memorialize missing and murdered Indigenous women with 24 hours of drumming