In collaboration with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, an art installation at Parkdale Cromdale Community League’s ice rink gives grieving families the opportunity to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“My understanding is that it didn’t get a great reception from the [Indigenous] community when we initially put it out there and I was really disappointed in that,” says Cheryl Whiskeyjack, executive director of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. “But last night, the turnout from the families was really wonderful. I believe we had 20 to 30 family members out there […] and they were really touched by the beauty of this art installation.”
The art installation started off with a pipe ceremony on Oct. 5. Whiskeyjack says when she put photos of the art installation on social media, she saw a lot of enthusiasm from the community. She feels hopeful that the engagement will increase.
“I think seeing it come to life really hit people on the spot,” says Whiskeyjack.
Whiskeyjack wants the installation to be more than just a visual display. While visitors take in the sight, they can listen to audio interviews from surviving families of the missing or murdered.
The installation was designed by Kevin Wong, current president of the Parkdale Cromdale Community League and is about providing a space to learn and share. “The main goal,” says Wong, “is to encourage people to find out more about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This is supposed to be the first of many [learning opportunities].”
Stephanie Harpe, a member of Fort McKay First Nation and a community advocate whose mother was featured in the display, helped collect the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous individuals. She also helped seek out other family members who have been affected by colonial violence. Harpe says that the art installation shows that someone still cares about her family and was thinking of them.
“Someone was making sure that people don’t forget and it was meaningful, beautiful, impactful, and spiritual,” Harpe says. “It is very important for people to know that we have the highest rate of missing and murdered population anywhere we go in this country.”
Harpe says she hopes this installation leads to long-lasting, impactful institutional changes. She hopes people with more power to create change will engage in bringing justice to their families.
“We haven’t seen [political] action yet, but this [installation] is a loving action that we can get behind and support,” Harpe says. “We need these spaces and these loving circles of this kind of honour for us to heal even more. We are still very failed [by the system] and are guarded.”
For the next two weeks, the public can visit the art installation and show their support to the affected families.
MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ART INSTALLATION
Oct. 5 – Oct. 17 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Parkdale-Cromdale Community League rink (11335 85 St)