Helen Gillings

19-year-old Helen Gillings' body was found in 1995. The case of her death has still not been solved. (Hamilton Police)

Twenty years ago, Helen Gillings' body was found in an alley on King Street. She was 19. 

Gillings is one of hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women, some of whom grew up in nearby Six Nations, some of whom, like Gillings, were killed in Hamilton.

Gillings, whom police say was a sex worker, was last seen alive at 1 a.m. entering the alley with a man the day before her body was found.

Hamilton Police have a $10,000 reward advertised for clues leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Gillings' death.

And Monday night, to kick off Aboriginal Awareness Month, a forum at Hamilton city hall will focus on stories like Gillings' and others — the "uncomfortable truth" about these hundreds of unsolved murders and missing persons cases. 

"It's seen as such a large conversation in a national context, but we also need to bring it back home and see what's going on in our own backyard," said Danielle Boissoneau, who grew up on the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie and has been living in Hamilton for the last 10 years.

Danielle Boissoneau

Danielle Boissoneau says she hopes Hamiltonians use the month of June to pay special attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Boissoneau moved to Hamilton to study indigenous studies at McMaster University, and said that the local indigenous community has "incredible" support from community organizations. 

Boissoneau said she hopes the forum and a focus on indigenous issues in June prompts people to talk about the missing and murdered women with their families, as a way to bring the "macro issue" home.

Monday's forum will feature a keynote speech by Angela Sterritt, a Gitxsan journalist for the CBC and an artist from British Columbia. 

The forum is being put on by the Hamilton Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University, and the Aboriginal Education and Student Services at Mohawk College.

Details on June 1 forum:

Where: Hamilton city hall council chambers, 71 Main St W, Hamilton
When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., program starts at 7 p.m.

The facility is wheelchair accessible.