‘They represent the unfinished lives’: memorial honours missing and murdered Indigenous women

Click to play video: '‘They represent the unfinished lives’: memorial honours missing and murdered Indigenous women' ‘They represent the unfinished lives’: memorial honours missing and murdered Indigenous women
A memorial that aims to honour Indigenous women who are no longer with us is now in our region. Walking With Our Sisters is a community-based art commemoration that organizers hope will help people remember these victims. Global's Natasha Pace reports. – Jan 14, 2017

A powerful memorial called Walking With Our Sisters is now set up at Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, N.S.

The community-based art commemoration is an opportunity for people to pay respect and honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“There are over 1,800 pairs of vamps, which is the top part of moccasins, representing each and every one of our missing sisters – women, children and two spirited-persons,” said Denise Pothier, member of the planning committee.

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Each set of vamps – or moccasins – has a unique design on them and are all unfinished.

“They represent the unfinished lives of these women, so they are unfinished moccasins,” Pothier said. “It’s a very moving and powerful and ceremonial space.”

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“The memorial itself, when you enter the venue, you walk counter-clockwise and the reason you walk counter-clockwise is because we are walking with our sisters who have departed this earth and are now walking in a spirit world,” added Geri Musqua-LeBlanc, and elder and member of the organizing committee.

The display features sacred objects that have been gifted from across the country.

108 pairs of children’s vamps are also included, to acknowledge the children who died while attending residential schools.

The memorial is currently travelling across Canada and the United States. This is the only stop it is scheduled to make in Atlantic Canada.

“This memorial was created in 2013 by Metis artist Christi Belcourt, who actually was awarded the Governor General’s award for this installation. It’s travelling internationally from 2013 up until 2019, at which time it’ll be retired,” Musqua-LeBlanc said.

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Organizers say Indigenous women make up four percent of women in Canada, but represent nearly 25% of murdered and missing aboriginal women in the country.

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“Historically, police forces, law enforcement officers or even the government tend to treat Indigenous women’s death as unremarkable. That is a form of violence that has to stop,” Musqua-LeBlanc said.

“We need to let people know, these women who have gone missing are mothers, grandmothers, they’re aunties, they’re sisters. Any murdered Indigenous person that is missing is one of those and they’ve been loved and they are still loved…and we honour them.”

It’s hoped the memorial will serve as a way to honour those whose lives were cut short – and show that more needs to be done.

“It’s truly a call to action, to all Canadians, to recognize that this is a national crisis and that we all need to pull together with government, with industry, with communities, to help address this issue,” Pothier said.

The Walking With Our Sisters memorial will be on display at Mount Saint Vincent University until Feb 1.

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