Red hearts honour Canada's MMIW
- Linda Mikolayenko | March 20, 2017
It is Valentine's Day, not Remembrance Day, but the scene on the Kiskinwuhumatowin Urban Reserve facing Lac La Ronge evokes images of Flanders Fields. Instead of crosses, 1181 red hearts planted in rows in the snow honour the memory of Canada's murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Many communities hold memorial marches on February 14, but the Piwapin Women's Centre chose to create this display for its visual impact, says Executive Director Karen Sanderson.
The number of hearts is significant, as an RCMP report released in 2014 stated that at least 1181 Indigenous women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012.
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Staff, clients, participants in the Centre's outreach program, and community members all pitched in to make the hearts and attach them to wooden stakes.
"We're just really in awe of all the support that we received - all the help that came in when we started this project, and we're very, very grateful that people have received it so well," says Sanderson.
Some of the hearts included names, while others also included photographs of the murdered and missing women and girls.
"It made it more real," says Sanderson.
Reality is close to home. Among those being remembered is Jodi Roberts of nearby Sucker River, who was murdered in late 2013.
The location of the display is also significant. The urban reserve is the site of the former All Saints Residential School.
"We wanted to put it in a place that has some historical meaning for the community," explains Sanderson.
Those who walked through the display in the 36 hours it was up, and those who viewed it through thousands of Facebook shares of photos and videos, were reminded of "generations of women lost; girls lost," says Sanderson, her voice laden with emotion. "For me, personally, it is to show they're not forgotten."