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‘They matter and they were loved’: Standoff conference honours murdered and missing Indigenous women

WATCH: “These are real women and they matter and they were loved,” a three-day conference in Alberta heard. Members of the Blood Tribe honoured missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and discussed how to heal. Demi Knight reports.

The number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls continues to weigh on the hearts and minds of members of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta.

“These are real women and they matter and they were loved,” said Terri-Lynn Fox, director with Kainai Wellness Centre.

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A recent database identified more than 2,500 murdered or missing Indigenous women across North America.

READ MORE: RCMP join march for missing and murdered women

Those at Dec. 10 to 12 conference held in Standoff, Alta., spent some time looking at why these numbers continue to grow and how history played a part in the way women are treated today.

“It’s one of those issues that was put under the rug and wasn’t talked about, and it has to do with how we think of women,” said Theda New Breast, a keynote speaker at the event.

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“But now with this women’s movement and the #MeToo movement, we’re starting to see women really finding their voices and becoming equals.”

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READ MORE: Inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women seeks 2 more years

The conference was hosted by the Kainai Wellness Centre and saw almost 500 people in attendance over the three days.

With several keynote speakers making an appearance, the event offered sessions on self care, recovery and wellness, while focusing on how populations can learn to heal.

“We have to let people feel the shock. We have to let them ask questions,” said New Breast. “We have to let them hear the story and then we have to let them say the feelings that they’re going through.”

And for her, the conference also stood for a symbol of something more.

“I think it’s a spiritual healing for both the United States and for Canada,” said New Breast.

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“When they begin to lift up the hearts of their Indigenous women, it’ll be a spiritual reconciliation that is so powerful it’ll be good to be alive and a human being on this continent when we start to do that.”