Sis­ters in spirit

New art in­stal­la­tion pro­motes di­a­logue on MMIWG.

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - FRONT PAGE - KATH­LEEN CHARLEBOIS KCharlebois@post­media.com

An art in­stal­la­tion meant to com­mem­o­rate and hon­our miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls (MMIWG) has al­ready sparked a larger con­ver­sa­tion about tak­ing a stand against vi­o­lence.

The Treaty 3 Ex­ec­u­tive Women’s Coun­cil held its first com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tion in prepa­ra­tion for host­ing the Walk­ing with Our Sis­ters (WWOS) in­stal­la­tion in Kenora this com­ing Jan­uary. The col­lec­tive art project is made up of more than 1,763 pairs of vamps, or the beaded tops of moc­casins. Each pair rep­re­sents a miss­ing or mur­dered Indige­nous woman, and the fact the moc­casins are in­com­plete are meant to rep­re­sent the women’s lives that were cut short.

Dur­ing the open­ing re­marks, the chief and three band coun­cil­lors from Naicatchewenin First Na­tion (North­west Bay) said they want to chal­lenge men across the ter­ri­tory to take a stand against vi­o­lence against women, elders and youth.

“Our com­mu­nity is very small, about 350 peo­ple,” Coun. Gary Smith said. “When some­thing hap­pens there, the rip­ple ef­fect of it goes right across the board. These are peo­ple you grew up with, these are peo­ple you went to school with, these are peo­ple that are your rel­a­tives, your un­cles, your aun­ties, your cousins.”

The men spoke about an in­ci­dent that hap­pened roughly a year ago where a man was beat­ing a young girl. The men in­ter­vened and got the per­pe­tra­tor to stop. He was in­car­cer­ated for the crime but was later re­leased, and the whole or­deal has left a tan­gi­ble im­pact on the com­mu­nity.

“We all have to make that stand col­lec­tively,” Smith said. “We all have to say it’s not okay, or we have to ad­dress it and say that’s not right. We have to do it as it’s hap­pen­ing as op­posed to look­ing the other way and hop­ing that it gets bet­ter.”

Since then, the coun­cil has worked with Treaty Three Po­lice Ser­vices on emer­gency plan­ning, safe places in the com­mu­nity and alert­ing peo­ple to cri­sis hot­lines and where to re­port.

Later on, they re­ceived a do­na­tion re­quest from the women’s ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil to sup­port WWOS. “We didn’t really know what we were walk­ing into,” Smith said. “We came here with [the idea of] how can we help? How can we show our sup­port?”

Deb­bie Lip­scombe works with the women’s ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil and said they have worked to sup­port fam­i­lies of MMIWG and have hosted a num­ber of gath­er­ings. One fam­ily sug­gested bring­ing WWOS to the ter­ri­tory.

She said they will need “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of elders and vol­un­teers to as­sist with the in­stal­la­tion. The next meet­ing will be on Fri­day, Nov. 17 at the Kenora Le­gion.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to get in­volved, con­tact Lip­scombe at 464-0249 or deb­bie.lip­scombe@treaty3.ca.

KATH­LEEN CHARLEBOIS/DAILY MINER AND NEWS

Treaty 3 women's ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil mem­ber Priscilla Si­mard speaks about fundrais­ing ef­forts to sup­port bring­ing the Walk­ing With Our Sis­ters art in­stal­la­tion to Kenora dur­ing a com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tion at the Trav­elodge Ho­tel on Fri­day, Nov. 10. The ea­gle sculp­ture be­hind her was do­nated by artist Percy Cameron.

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