Memorial march provides support, healing

Linda John spent part of Valentine’s Day remembering two family members who died at the hands of others.

John’s seven-month-old son David Isaacs died of shaken baby syndrome in 1974. Her family was hit with another tragic loss when her daughter Hylena Rivera was murdered in 2011.

John was among those taking part in the annual MMIWGMB2S+ Valentine’s Day Memorial Walk held Wednesday in Ohsweken.

Marchers, many dressed in red, walked from Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services to Veterans Park.

This was the third annual march in support of the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, men, boys, and Two Spirit members (MMIWGMB2S+). Following the march, walkers gathered in the park to listen to speakers tell their stories.

Family members spoke of the loved ones they have lost and also of their grievance.

The grieving process was a struggle and coping with the loss of her son and daughter was difficult, said John.

John’s daughter, Jillian Isaacs, sang a song that she wrote after her sister’s disappearance and shared how it helped with her healing.

Isaacs also shared a new song she wrote, noting how it was different because she has healed and changed since her sister’s death.

“I tell my kids about their auntie, and I talk about her in the present tense because she is still with us,” Isaacs said.

“This next song is not only about grieving loved ones but also for an old self.”

Speakers stressed the importance of working together and supporting each other. Initiatives such as the Love Starts With Us counseling offered through Ganohkwasra are helpful on the road to healing, said John.

Six Nations Police Chief Darren Montour spoke of the importance of working closely with community organizations like Ganohkwasra.

Wednesday’s event also stressed the importance of making support services available to both men and women.

Amber Silversmith, program coordinator and counselor at Ganohkwasra, said people have asked “What about the men?”.

Sign-up sheets were provided at the march for a new men’s support group that the center will be offering, said Silversmith.

Ganohkwasra provides shelter, counseling and educational services. More details about the programs are available at