Boundary Family Service’s (BFS) Victoria Runge wants people in the West Boundary to know about this month’s Moose Hide campaign, the First Nations-led grassroots movement against violence towards women and children. 2021 marks the tenth annual campaign, which will go virtual this year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year on Feb. 11, campaign leaders call upon supporters to wear postage-stamp-sized squares of moose hide prepared by First Nations women. The moose is sacred in First Nations communities across Canada, where Runge said women prepare all parts of the animal for food, clothing and traditional medicine.
The campaign is personal to Runge, who works at BFS as an Aboriginal family and youth support worker. But the Moose Hide campaign “is not my story,” she said Friday, Feb. 5.
The campaign started in 2011, when Paul Lacerte and daughter Raven, both indigenous, hunted and prepared a moose along northern B.C’s Hwy. 16, widely known as the “Highway of Tears” for the missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) who have disappeared along the road. As Raven prepared the hide, the ritual came to signify the loving bond between father and daughter, according to the campaign’s website.
Runge, who identifies as Onion Lake Cree, said BFS won’t be sponsoring any ceremonies this year due to COVID restrictions on public gatherings. But the campaign is incredibly important, not just to the mother of five daughters, but to every women and child in our country, she said.
Women are statistically much more likely to experience violence than men, Runge said, noting Statistics Canda’s 2009 study showing that indigenous women are nearly three times as likely to suffer violence as non-indigenous women. Meanwhile, Runge said she would normally drive the Highway of Tears twice a year to visit with one of her daughters who lives in Burns Lake.
“When you leave Prince George, heading north, you’ll see many grave markers along the highway,” she said. While some honour people killed in highway crashes, too many mark the lives of First Nations women vanished or found murdered on the Highway of Tears.
All moose hide is ethically sourced, according to traditional First Nations hunting practices, according to the campaign’s website. Men and women are called to wear the moose hide squares to signify a commitment to honor, respect and protect women and children.
Runge said she plans to observe this year’s campaign by fasting on Feb. 11, from sunrise to sunset.
For more information, please visit the Moose Hide Campaign’s website at www.moosehidecampaign.ca.