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Sisters in Spirit Vigil honours missing and murdered Indigenous women in Calgary

Hundreds marched down Stephen Avenue Tuesday morning to the beat of traditional aboriginal singing and drumming, honouring the lives of Aboriginal women who have disappeared, and pushing for greater awareness of the issue.

Hundreds marched in downtown Calgary to participate in theme of 'Healing Through Truth and Reconciliation'

Hundreds marched in Calgary down Stephen Avenue to honour the lives and families of Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Hundreds marched down Stephen Avenue Tuesday morning to the beat of traditional aboriginal singing and drumming, honouring the lives of Aboriginal women who have disappeared, and pushing for greater awareness of the issue. 

They gathered at Calgary's Olympic Plaza, where more than 1,200 pairs of empty women's, girls', and baby shoes were laid out — one pair for each of the estimated missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Kaiya and Aiyana Leonard La Couvee collected approximately 1,200 pairs of shoes for this art installation. The shoes will be donated to women's shelters across Alberta. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The march and art installation are part of Calgary's 12th annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil, just one of roughly 200 similar events to take place across Canada and internationally.

"I'm proud, and I'm thankful that all these supporters have come here today," said Aiyana Leonard La Couvee, who spearheaded the art project along with her sister Kaiya.

"This has been I think the largest we've seen, since these past few years."

"The more shoes we have, the more we can give, which is a great thing," said Aiyana (right). (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Hope for the national inquiry

The theme of this year's vigil is "Healing Through Truth and Reconciliation."

Josie Nepinak, the event organizer and executive director at the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society, said the federal government's commitment to a national inquiry "moves us forward."

"I believe it will change the focus for us folks here in Calgary," she said.

"Many families will receive some justice. We will have some answers, possibly some leads and some closure," she said.

"Our 13th annual I'm hoping will be more of a celebration. A celebration that a nation has come together through this inquiry to talk about the issue, and to begin that reconciliation process that we all need."

The rows of red shoes lay at the centre of the art installation, representing the heart of the "medicine wheel." Each pair was smudged with sage and other traditional healing medicines. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

With files from Evelyne Asselin