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Over 1,000 pairs of unfinished moccasins

Tuesday, May 06, 2014   by: Brad Jones

Walking in through the doors of the Shingwauk auditorium at Algoma University is generally not an experience that imprints itself.

Walking through those doors and being embraced by over a thousand pairs of unfinished moccasins, with each pair representing murdered or missing indigenous women is humbling at best.

Walking With Our Sisters opened its doors to the public Monday and runs until May 18.

Initially created by Métis artist Christi Belcourt, the travelling exhibit and memorial has begun to evolve into a national community project.

With a set schedule to travel all across the United States and Canada until 2019, the project is adopted and cared for by each community that hosts it.

“Whether we consciously think about it or not, it does affect us,” says Dallas Abitong, one of the keepers for the Sault Ste. Marie memorial.

“Whether we read about it in the newspaper about somebody gone missing, or we see it on Facebook, or we hear it in the news, it does affect us in some way. I would like people to find their own healing within this.”

This is also the first time that the memorial has been held at a former residential school.

While the residential school closed in 1970, the students who once went there can still feel the impact it has had on the community.

A special call for child size vamps (beaded fabric that covers the instep) was made for this exhibit, to represent the children that never left.

Local elders work in tandem with the keepers to ensure that the set up and execution of the event is done with deepest respect and adherence to traditional ways.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this,” says Shirley Horn, one of the Elders assisting with the memorial, and residential school survivor.

“We’re dealing with a spiritual nature here. So we have to be very respectful and follow our traditional way of honouring, which is very simple in our culture, but very important.”

The memorial itself is a three-week ceremony and people interested in attending are invited to come with an open heart and an open mind.

“Aangwaamzin: stay determined, be careful,” says Abitong.

“As a community, if we all stick together, take care of one another, then we will be OK. As long as we are there to help each other we are OK.”

The opening of the exhibit in Sault Ste. Marie is uniquely positioned after the RCMP have confirmed reports of 1,186 missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada.

The reports confirmed by the RCMP say that there are 1017 murdered indigenous women between the years of 1980 and 2012.

169 indigenous women have been reported missing since 1952.

Violence against indigenous women is disproportionate, representing the 16% of all murdered females between 1980 and 2012, while the actual population of indigenous women is only 4% of the entire Canadian population.

Indigenous women account for 12% of all missing females on record.

For more information about walking with our sisters check out their website, or Facebook

Check out Sootoday’s previous coverage for this story here

(Photo by Brad Jones - - shows Walking with Our Sisters Exhibit at Algoma University in the Shingwauk auditorium from May 5 to 18)

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Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Gater 5/6/2014 10:10:06 AM Report

Sad .I have read and heard of this over the past few years. Is there anything being done to focus on this issue by the authorities?
Number One Son 5/6/2014 10:35:17 AM Report

Are we not missing the big picture here? Is it not sad and wrong that 1017 women of ANY ethnicity have been murdered or missing?

Statistics can be made to say anything we want if they are worked properly. There are other parameters that put native women at risk more than non-native women. If I have to elaborate to make my point, you will never understand anyways.
mallet 5/6/2014 10:56:00 AM Report

I know I may or probably will get pilloried here, but why are the people responsible for policing themselves not doing more to help, There are quite a few F N police forces, so why are they not doing more to help these women. The article says that there are 12% of ethnic women missing or murdered, who makes up the other 78%?? Figures do not lie, but can be manipulated, when you say that over a thousand people have gone missing, thats tragic but when you add that it is also over a 30 year period, that tends to put a different spin on it.
IgnorantNortherner 5/6/2014 11:04:00 AM Report

@gator, search these terms together

missing native children elizabeth bc

It's possible that story is false.

Also possible it is real and nothing has been done about it.
IF it is real and the murders are related justice will not come easy for anyone.
justsomeguy 5/6/2014 11:46:25 AM Report

I agree that this needs thorough investigation by applicable authorities.

Any estimates at how long it'll be until comments are closed on this article?
rugerben 5/6/2014 12:33:34 PM Report

it does not matter if it is native or not its still sad .It has a lot to the line of work they do nobody forces them in to that kind of work they choose it, some times bad things happen
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