It seems like violence has always been part of Lorelei Williams' life.

The DNA of her cousin Tanya Holyk was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, Williams' aunt Belinda Williams has been missing for years, and Williams herself grew up in a household where she suffered sexual and physical abuse.

Williams says it wasn't until she was older that she understood the root of the violence she suffered at the hands of her mother.

"I found out she was in residential school, and that's what she grew up with, and being a child, taken away from her mom when she was six-years-old," Williams told CBC's The Early Edition.

"When she was taken, [she was] counting the mountains to find her way home, and then having to go through the sexual abuse, child abuse, physical abuse in residential school..."

Belinda Williams

In 1977, Lorelei Williams aunt, Belinda Williams, disappeared in B.C. without a trace. (Supplied by Lorelei Williams)

Even though she had a traumatic childhood, Williams says her experience has made her stronger, and it drives her to give her two children a better childhood than her own.

Williams is also an advocate for missing and murdered aboriginal women, and has even founded a dance troupe called Butterflies in Spirit to raise awareness.

"Just thinking of having other women with me to do the dance was the original idea — to get my missing aunt's picture out there.

"But also to remember and honour my cousin Tanya Holyk, not … thinking that other family members of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls would join me.

"And that made it so much more strong, and we healed together doing this, and we're still doing it."


This story is part of a series called Dream Makers, featuring aboriginal women`s stories of strength, survival and success.