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Mother's Day Healing: Cree Elder Hopes for 500 Drummers in Thunder Bay

Cree elder Frances Wesley is organizing a day of drums and a walk to commemorate moms on Mother's Day, Sunday May 8; 500 drummers could show up.

The well-being of their families and children has always been the focus for mothers, especially those in Indian country. So naturally when Cree elder Frances Wesley dreamed of expressing support for young people who were hurting, and for missing or murdered women in First Nations communities, she found a way to honor that dream on Mother’s Day.

Wesley and others hope that hundreds of people and more than 500 hand drummers will show up at Thunder Bay’s Marina Park beside the shores of Lake Superior on Sunday May 8 for “Heartbeat of the Drum: A Walk for Healing.”

“It stemmed from a dream I had, in regards to some young people … here in our community in Thunder Bay,” Wesley told the local station Shaw TV.

“I’ve often thought about the young, especially the young girls involved in the sex trade, some are as young as 14,” she said. “And we’ve also heard about the interest not that long ago in young men and women being found dead, and I thought, you know what, I have to do something about that, to do my part in bringing people together to heal, and to celebrate, to share our culture, and to let the young people know that we care about them. And to let the people in the communities know that we care about them. In Thunder Bay, we still welcome them and we want to instill hope for our kids.”

People are encouraged to gather about a half mile away at Waverly Park by 12:30 p.m., where tobacco ties and buttons will be handed out. After an opening song, people will walk to Marina Park, led by drummers, to hear speakers and share a light lunch. There are only a few picnic tables, which will be reserved for elders. Those who need chairs are encouraged to bring their own. Additional details can be found on the event’s Facebook page or on its website. The location beside Lake Superior on Mother’s Day also seems appropriate as a “good day to drum to the heartbeat of Mother Earth,” Wesley noted.

“The beat of the drum is humanity’s common pulse connecting our heartbeat to Mother Earth,” Wesley said. “Through the joy of drumming, the community will feel a sense of revitalization and there will be a sense of synchronization of energy and unity.”

Everyone from all cultures is welcome to join the walk, she added, especially those new to Canada. People with family or friends who are among the missing or who have died are encouraged to bring an item owned by that person.

Within Thunder Bay, seven First Nation students since 2000 and more than a dozen First Nation women in the past 30 years have died under mysterious circumstances, according to CBC News.

“At times it will be sad because some women will be walking for their daughters who are lost,” Wesley said. “At the end, we will feel good because we will be walking together.”