Final Walking in Spirit event attacts hundreds in Maskwacis

first_imgBrandi Morin APTN National NewsMASKWACIS, ALTA — Hundreds of people walked 17 kilometres in 30 degree temperatures for the fourth and final Walking in Spirit suicide awareness event in Maskwacis Thursday.Holding handmade signs with the names of loved ones who took their own lives, participants braved the scorching heat as a symbol of the pain each person who died  may have experienced in life.In the past three years, 60 people have taken their own lives in the community.The walk originally stemmed from the vision of Mason Buffalo who four years ago decided to take action against suicide that has hit the community hard in the last decade.He set out to walk from each of the four directions over four years and now believes a space has been made for changes to take form.“With our prayers sent from the four directions we lifted the cloud over Maskwacis,” said Buffalo.He said everyone struggles with mental illness and has dealt with some sort of trauma in their lifetime. He too fought his own demons and suffered from suicidal thoughts even in the recent past.“Even the last four years have been the worst. I used to turn to alcohol to not think about anything. But I’ve made a conscious decision to better my life and great opportunities have been coming to me,” he said.The efforts to combat suicide are not stopping here. He is advocating for a healing lodge to be built in the community.“If we had a treatment center here there will be people who will want to get help there. There’s usually waiting lists in other treatment centers and the ones who get in a lot of times are court ordered. The ones who can’t get in turn to suicide because they want to give up.”He said leadership of the four bands that make up Maskwacis are supportive of the idea.His father Patrick Buffalo, a council member at Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis is also supportive, but said effective treatment plans need to be further explored.“We have a long ways to go in healing our community,” said Patrick. “I know for a fact that people can offer all sorts of programs but at the end of the day what is it that works?”Patrick is proud of his son for taking the lead on a grassroots level to tackle suicide. And said now people are more open to talk about it which wasn’t always the case.“This has been a problem for a long, long time. Mason took a huge leap in creating awareness but we need to continue creating awareness, educating, so that there are options and support mechanisms put in place so people can have someone to reach out to,” he said.Buffalo hopes a youth member of Maskwacis will carry on leading the walk in the years [email protected]last_img

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