CALGARY—For over 10 years, Stephanie English and her daughters, Joey English and Alison Moses, talked about organizing a walk to spread awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Then, Stephanie English lost both daughters and found herself organizing the walk alone.
“Me and my girls were wanting to do this before they passed, and it was just kind of put off and put off,” said English. “Now it’s kind of falling into place.”
English lost Alison, who was almost 21, in June 2015 to a suspected suicide. Exactly a year later, in June 2016, police found 25-year-old Joey’s dismembered body in various locations across Calgary. The medical examiner concluded Joey died of an overdose before a male acquaintance found and dismembered her body.
In 2017, Judge Mike Dinkle sentenced Joshua Weise to 18 months in jail plus three years’ probation for offering an indignity to human remains.
Two years after Joey’s death, English is hoping her walk, Calling My Spirit Back, will garner attention for Indigenous families struggling with loss.
“A lot of First Nations are being murdered and nothing is being said or done about it,” English said. “When it is, there’s no closure.”
Despite English’s attempts to heal, she said she will never come to terms with the loss of her daughters, especially Joey.
“I hope for closure … but I won’t have closure,” said English. “When your daughter is in the landfill, you’ll never have closure.”
English said she’s tried therapy, but it hasn’t worked.
“I stopped everything — treatments, therapies and doctor suggestions — and I went back to my traditional ways,” said English, who originates from Piikani Nation. “That’s what’s grounding me. It helps me get the anger out of my life.”
English remembers her daughters as “two peas in a pod.”
“They were one-of-a-kind, they were really funny. I really miss them,” English said. “They were really kind girls, really pretty girls, and they had dreams — we had dreams. This walk was one of them.”
Joey and Alison were survived by their children and younger siblings, most of whom live with English. English said her “babies are where I get my strength.”
Now, English is channelling that strength to get through her upcoming walk.
English partnered with the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society, an emergency women’s shelter, and received financial support from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary. She said both groups have been “really awesome and really helpful.”
The walk will start on Tuesday, Oct. 2 in Piikani Nation. The group will walk north along Highway 2 for 44 hours straight until everyone ends up in Calgary, a journey of roughly 200 kilometres.
On Oct. 4 at 11:30 a.m., Calling My Spirit Back will unite with Awo Taan’s annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil at Calgary’s Olympic Plaza. The groups will honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and their loved ones.
“This journey I’m on is to let other people know they’re not alone,” English said, adding she wants to halt the ongoing cycle of violence targeting Indigenous peoples.
“I know that I need to do this,” English said. “If I can have that support throughout southern Alberta … I hope that change will come. Good change.”
Anya Zoledziowski is a reporter/photographer for StarMetro Calgary. Follow her on Twitter: @anyazoledz