Twenty years ago on New Year’s Eve Dianne Stewart was murdered on the Penticton Indian Reserve — her killer has never been caught.
She was attending a party that night and left on foot, last seen walking along Green Mountain Road but it wasn’t until May her remains were found on the slope of Westhills.
Members of Stewart’s family will be speaking on Tuesday at the Sisters in Spirit Vigil at the Indian Band Community Hall which is part of nation-wide movement to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Along with the Stewart family, also speaking will be Bernie Williams, who is also known as Skundaal.
She is a survivor of the “60’s scoop” the residential school system and is a domestic abuse survivor.
For almost 30 years she has been a frontline worker in on Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, often walking those streets in search of women in need of help.
These are the same streets where her mother, two sisters and brother were murdered.
She has been involved in campaigns to get justice for missing and murdered women since 1986.
“This event is about raising awareness of the missing and murdered aboriginal women and children, as well as the over-representation of female aboriginal victims,” said Amberlee Erdmann, Resource Development Coordinator from the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society (SOVAS) in a news release. “We invite community members to stand in solidarity for the loved ones we have lost and to show your support to the friends and family of victims.
“Walk for Dianne Stewart. Walk for Olive Hill, an 85-year-old Penticton woman who was smothered to death and raped. Walk for Roxanne Louie, a 26-year-old mother of a three-year-old boy who was murdered in Penticton in 2015. Walk for the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women.”
On that night there will be a dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by the keynote speakers at 6:30 p.m. then Herman Edwards will perform on the flute and the Tuesday Night Drum Circle will play the Women’s Warrior song.
The night will conclude with a march to the Okanagan River Channel and a candlelight vigil. Transportation will be provided for those who require it.
“Aboriginal women are at higher rates of poverty, have fewer resources and support, and often live in isolating situations,” said Leslie Fabriz, Community Outreach Services from the Okanagan Nation Transition Emergency House (ONTEH) in the release. “The Sister in Spirit Vigil is a movement for social change and a reminder that our sisters and loved ones will not be forgotten.”
Police statistics show the rate of victimization among aboriginal females is close to three times higher than non-aboriginal females.
From 1980 to 2012 police-reported incidents of missing and murdered aboriginal females were 1,017.
The Indian Band Community is located at 841 Westhills Dr. and everyone is welcome.