Hundreds of North Central residents took part in the annual Smudge Walk on Friday morning helping cleanse the community and bring people together.

The healing spiritual walk has happened in North Central for 11 years straight, but this year was the first to have a woman carrying the smudge on the walk, a tradition that was changed to help honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Tracy Desjarlais walked on Friday to support the neighbourhood and continue to spread awareness for the vulnerable women in the Indigenous community.

She has seen the effects of violence against women in the community first hand, with relatives who have gone missing. She testified in the MMIWG inquiry last year, and Friday’s walk was another chance to support these women in her community.

“For all of us to recognize and honour the women is important to me,” said Desjarlais. “As a woman, as a daughter, as an auntie, as a cousin, as a sister as, a grandmother; all of us women are rising up to bring awareness.”

The walk was originally created to try and create some change in the neighbourhood that was named Canada’s worst neighbourhood in 208 by Macleans Magazine.

Nick Crighton helped organize this year’s walk, and said the annual event gives the community a direct stake in its own healing.

“It’s not until community came together and we had this annual smudge walk that we learned that this community needs healing,” said Crighton. “We’re going to heal it with our ceremonial ways.”

The smudge is a spiritual tradition that that is performed to heal and renew the area and its people, and the walkers on Friday hope it can spread some positivity throughout North Central.

“When we walk around the community were really building a presence, a spiritual context, for the spiritual safety around the community,” said Edmumd Bellegarde, the Chief of the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal council. “But we're also asking for our grandfathers and our spiritual ancestors to come and help us.”

Organizers estimated 300 to 500 people participated in the walk, including many indigenous leaders, Mayor Michael Fougere, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray, and multiple Saskatchewan MLAs.