Walking With Our Sisters Art ExhibitPublished on 19 November 2014 Hansard and Statements by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, on October 31, I attended the opening of the Walking With Our Sisters art exhibit at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon. This exhibit is a commemorative art installation dedicated to remembering and honouring the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It acknowledges the grief and torment of the families of these missing and murdered girls and women. Furthermore, the exhibit is raising awareness of the issue and providing opportunities for broad community-based dialogue about the issue.
The Walking With Our Sisters art exhibit is being installed in 25 locations throughout North America and is booked next for Yellowknife.
As honourable senators know, over 1,181 indigenous women and girls in Canada have been reported missing or been murdered in the last 30 years. Many vanished without a trace or without adequate attention from the media, the general public, politicians and even law enforcement.
The Walking With Our Sisters art exhibit is comprised of about 1,800 pairs of moccasin vamps, including about 100 pairs of children’s vamps. These beautifully beaded vamps were created and donated by hundreds of volunteers across Canada. Viewers walk on a red cloth path which winds along a pathway of vamps. Volunteers in each community assist in creating their own design for the manner in which the vamps are installed. For example, in Saskatoon the vamps were arranged in a path circling a central, open teepee. The children’s vamps were placed inside the teepee surrounded by sage and stone rocks.
The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women and girls whose lives were cut short. The children’s vamps are dedicated to children who never returned home from residential schools.
The art installation is tremendously powerful, inducing a wide range of emotions. It is beautiful to view and yet so profoundly sad to reflect on the lives lost and the deep wells of grief felt by their families.
Honourable senators, you can view the exhibit on your iPad. In Safari or Google, type in the words “panorama WWOS” and “acomultimedia” will come up first on the list. Click on it, and the first image shown is the WWOS exhibit in Saskatoon.
I wish to acknowledge the many volunteers in Saskatoon who worked to put together the Walking With Our Sisters art exhibit and who are keeping the sacred fire burning throughout. The volunteers are there every day to guide visitors in the proper protocol to enter and view the exhibit. For example, visitors smudge with smoke from burning sage before entering the exhibit to cleanse their hearts, minds, spirits and physical bodies, and they are given tobacco to offer prayers.
Honourable senators, the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit will open in Ottawa in September 2015. I hope you visit it and experience its beauty and spirit.
Today I am wearing a vest made to honour Shelley Napope, one of the 153 murdered Aboriginal women from Saskatchewan.