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Walking With Our Sisters exhibit commemorates missing and murdered Indigenous women

Photo: Council of Canadians

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The Walking With Our Sisters art installation is currently in Ottawa and will visit numerous other communities through to March 2019.

As noted on their website, "Walking With Our Sisters is by all accounts a massive commemorative art installation comprised of 1,763+ pairs of moccasin vamps (tops) plus 108 pairs of children's vamps created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to [the injustice of missing and murdered Indigenous women and residential schools]. ...The work exists as a floor installation made up of beaded vamps arranged in a winding path formation on fabric and includes cedar boughs. Viewers remove their shoes to walk on a path of cloth alongside the vamps."

"Each pair of vamps (or 'uppers' as they are also called) represents one missing or murdered Indigenous woman. The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short. The children's vamps are dedicated to children who never returned home from residential schools. Together the installation represents all these women; paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. They have been cared for, they have been loved, they are missing and they are not forgotten."

In terms of the story behind this project, the Globe and Mail has reported, "In July, 2012, Christi Belcourt, a Michif (Métis) artist who lives near Sudbury, made a Facebook appeal for help with a year-long collaborative art project called Walking With Our Sisters... She hoped to assemble a show of 600 pairs of hand-made moccasin vamps (uppers) -- but by year's end had received 1,723 pairs, from artists and craftspeople all over North America and beyond. Sixty-five new beading circles sprang up around the project, and many people learned traditional crafts to participate -- 'a beautiful side-effect', says Ms. Belcourt."

The art installation will be at Carleton University in Ottawa through to October 16. It then goes to Akwesasne Mohawk Territory (November 6-26). In 2016, the exhibit will be in North Battleford, Saskatchewan (January 15-February 7), The Pas, Manitoba (March 1-11), Mt. Pleasant, Michigan (April 23-June 3), Almonte, Ontario (August 10-September 17), Manitowaning, Ontario (October-November), and Halifax (December 5-February 5, 2017). For a complete listing of where it will be between 2017 and 2019 before it concludes in Kenora, Ontario, please click here. The Council of Canadians has repeatedly called on the Harper government to support a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, but they account for 16 per cent of murdered women and 11.3 per cent of missing women in Canada. Over the past 30 years, 1,026 Indigenous women have been murdered and 160 are missing. We also support the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the damage inflicted on Indigenous peoples by the Indian Residential School System. It has been estimated that about 150,000 children were forced into these schools and that up to 6,000 of them died there.

The Walking With Our Sisters art installation is a poignant reminder of the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women as well as the full implementation of all 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If the Walking With Our Sisters art installation comes to your community, please be sure to visit it.

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