Saturday February 06, 2016

Butterflies in Spirit: honouring lost women through dance

Butterflies in Spirit raises awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women through dance.

Butterflies in Spirit raises awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women through dance. (CBC / Andrew Friesen)

Listen 7:13

Lorelei Williams is a woman on a mission. She's searching for justice for her aunt Belinda, who has been missing for decades, and for her cousin Tanya Holyk, whose DNA was found on the notorious Pickton Farm.

Today, Williams is an outspoken advocate. But when she first started attending rallies and marches she noticed that banners and placards of missing and murdered women were not getting the attention they deserved.

That's when Williams had an idea. She put pictures of her aunt and cousin on black shirts with white letters that read "missing" or "murdered." But Williams didn't stop there. She gathered a group of Indigenous women and began a dance troupe called, Butterflies in Spirit.

Their goal is to keep the stories of their loved ones alive through dance. Here's what a rehearsal looks like:

RAW: Butterflies in Spirit dance rehearsal1:05

The dance is a sort of political theatre. After their choreographed routine, the dancers all drop to the ground and those with murdered loved ones are blanketed with white sheets. The dancers with missing loved ones stand up and use hand wraps as whips to draw attention to their shirts. Then they all stand up and sing the traditional Women's Warrior song.

The group has performed all over Canada, and is made up of around a dozen women with missing or murdered loved ones.

Their first big performance shut down the Vancouver streets of Granville and Georgia: 


The Story She Carries airs Saturday, Feb. 6 at 3:00pm on CBC Radio One.