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Lhtako Dené Nation walks for awareness and healing after tragic events

A ceremony was held Monday morning starting from and ending at Lhtako Hall

For those struggling, Tia Bunnah wants you to know you are not alone.

Late Monday morning, March 28, the home and community care nurse walked with dozens of people of all ages through the main reserve of Lhtako Dené Nation, singing and drumming while holding signs bringing awareness to suicide, bullying and drugs and alcohol.

Elder’s group president Bryant Paul and addictions counsellor Jim Edgar led the healing ceremony starting from the Lhtako Hall, smudging each home they passed by.

As described by many, the much-needed day came more than a month after two suicides on Feb. 25 devastated the Indigenous community just south of Quesnel.

“We still see that the community is really hurting from that,” Bunnah said.

“We’re still having people calling after hours, people calling throughout the day, just not really understanding how to cope with those feelings, so we want to bring everyone together in a very supported environment to bring awareness.”

Bunnah had hosted a craft and poster-making event with children and youth a few days before the healing and awareness walk.

Among some of the decorated posters were the words “Kindness is always good,” “You’re loved” and “You are not alone. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It is a sign of strength.”

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After the ceremony, lunch was held at the hall with Paul and Edgar planning to continue smudging and praying for those in need by traveling to homes outside the main reserve, including Dragon Lake.

In the last four years or so, Paul said there have been around 15 deaths in the small community from suicide and drug overdose.

“We’re trying to inform the reserve, the whole Lhtako Dené Nation and other non-native people if they need help in any way don’t be afraid to come to the elders,” he said, noting the power of prayer.

“Talk to your elders if you feel down or sad in any way so it’s alright; you will not harm yourself.”

Bunnah also reiterated the importance of reaching out and connecting with someone.

She said when people are hurting, they are not necessarily looking for answers right away but for someone to sit with them in their hurt and know there is someone there with them.

“I know a lot of people have asked me what can I say, what can I do, and I just say your presence is more than enough right now.”

In a poster promoting the ceremony on Facebook, Lhtako Dené Nation said it hopes the ceremony will continue in each of their surrounding nations and communities that have also been affected and need healing.

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