The words, ‘No more stolen sisters,’ now greets drivers along Highway 3A between Penticton and Keremeos.
The message is almost impossible to miss, even with scaffolding still in front of it. The phrase is painted in giant, blue, block letters with a yellow background.
“This is about all women, not just missing and murdered Aboriginal women, but all women,” Uthlxanica Kenoras said on his property. ‘The violence against women is the same thing as the violence against the land.”
The billboard is located on Kenoras’ property near Green Mountain Road.
For the last few days Kenoras, his niece Mayuk Manuel and muralist Isha Jules have worked on the large billboard. Mayuk Manuel is the daughter of Arthur Manuel, longtime Indigenous Rights activist and founder of the National Indian Brotherhood, the precursor to the Assembly of First Nations. He died in January 2017.
Arthur Manuel helped pen the 2015 award winning book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake Up Call, Between the Lines which he co-wrote with Grand Chief Ron Derrickson. He was also the spokesman for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.
Brought up in an activist family, Mayuk has been involved in countless rallies, protests, activist organizations and blockades. Her and her sister Kanahus Manuel spent time in jail after protesting the expansion of Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops in 2001.
After finishing the mural on Highway 3A she is headed back to Secwepemc territory near Chase B.C. to work alongside her sister and many others on a tiny house build along the Kinder Morgan pipeline. She explains the concept is to build 10 tiny houses on unceded Secwepmc territory in the vicinity of the pipeline extension. The Secwepemc territory is the largest indigenous territory the pipeline will cross.
The group, called Tiny House Warriors, is working with Greenpeace on the project.
“We’ve always used this land. We’ve occupied this land. The process to allow this doesn’t include Indigenous people. A few chiefs decide to go ahead, but we don’t have a say. We need to say, ‘No,’ to projects that are going to destroy the land.”
Her role in the build is to create murals on all the buildings. The first is dedicated to the salmon.
“Salmon are important for our people all people. They’re one of those key species. If there is something wrong with the salmon, there is something wrong with our land.”
Before she leaves to continue the fight against Kinder Morgan and pipelines, she is focussed on finishing the mural project. One side depicts Coyote, the land and teachings from her culture. The other side, including the words, ‘No more stolen sisters,’ has garnered more attention.
“People have stopped to talk about women they’ve known that had disappeared or hurt. This is powerful. It’s a trigger for them. It brings up a lot of emotion,” she said.
Every few minutes, the sound of a passing vehicle’s horn reminds the painters there is support for these kinds of projects. There has been some intimidation and profanities yelled from people on motorcycles who she said appeared at times to be driving in circles around the site.
“It’s strange,” she said. “All we can think is that they are part of the sex trade. This is a border community.”
Plans later this year include heading south into the U.S. near the Mexican border and painting a similar mural here. As well, there are also plans underway to paint a mural across the highway from the one near Green Mountain Road.
“These can be very powerful. It’s a good way to get you message out there. We used pictographs at one time, now we use these,” she said.