Manitoba

'They were still strong Indigenous women': Day to honour MMIWG2S includes ceremony, vigil

Events in Winnipeg to honour the spirits of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people included an opening ceremony with the lighting of a sacred fire and wrapped with vigils and ceremonies at The Forks and the legislature.

Sacred fire was lit Monday morning at city hall, ceremony held at The Forks in evening

A child holds a candle at a ceremony at The Forks on Friday night honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Events in Winnipeg to honour the spirits of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people included an opening ceremony with the lighting of a sacred fire and wrapped with vigils and ceremonies at The Forks and the legislature.

Oct. 4 marks Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited People's Honouring and Awareness Day in Manitoba. 

It's a day of remembrance for the hundreds of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people missing or murdered throughout Canada. 

About 30 people attended the morning ceremony, including some city councillors and police officers who offered tobacco during the ceremony.

About 30 red dresses are hanging outside City Hall in Winnipeg to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Several red dresses have been hung around the city call courtyard at 510 Main St., where the ceremony took place. The dresses will hang for 30 days. 

Red dresses have been used to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and call attention to the problem for years. This movement was started by artist Jaime Black, who created The REDress Project in Winnipeg in 2010. 

Carolyn Moar, a knowledge keeper from Sagkeeng First Nation, says the red dress is a reminder that these women and girls were loved and are missed by their communities. 

Carolyn Moar is a knowledge keeper from Sagkeeng First Nation. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

"They were still part of our community, they were still strong Indigenous women, and they were needed," she said. 

Moar says this day should inspire others to remember MMIWG2S year round. 

"One day a year is a beautiful idea to remember but we should be keeping these women, girls and two-spirit in our hearts always," she said. 

An opening ceremony was held in the Winnipeg City Hall courtyard on Main Street Monday morning for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited People’s, Honouring and Awareness Day in Manitoba. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A vigil also took place at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks, along with walks organized by the Bear Clan Patrol and Sisters in Spirit Manitoba.

The Soles on Fire 5K started at The Forks, with runners winding their way down a path lined with posters of the MMIWG final report calls to action.

Candles were lit and placed next to rocks with red hand prints painted on them as people gathered at Oodena Circle to mark the day with a vigil. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The Sisters in Spirit walk, recognized nationwide since 2005, started at Oodena Circle where people gathered in tribute to MMIWG2S.

That was followed by a vigil at Oodena Circle attended by dozens, including Arianna Ducharme. She and others placed red-painted hand prints down on rocks in the area to represent MMIWG2S.

Arianna remembers her aunt Mavis Ducharme fondly, especially her laugh. 

Arianna Ducharme holds up a poster that includes the name and photo of her aunt Mavis Ducharme, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2016. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Ducharme, 39, was brutally assaulted in Winnipeg's North End in 2016 and died. A man and a woman were found guilty of manslaughter in 2018. 

Arianna said there was power in the presence of the crowd that turned out at Oodena Circle. She wants the rest of Canada to take notice and help drive change.

"I shouldn't be scared to walk on the streets and having to worry about my surroundings and having to worry about walking past any guy," said Arianna, 18. "It's just wanting to feel safe in the environment I'm in, not having to be scared if I am going to be the next one."

William Hudson said it was an important day for him to show up for.

William Hudson, centre, carries a flag at Oodena Circle that reads, 'Not another Indigenous life #justiceforeishia.' (Walther Bernal/CBC)

On April 7, 2020, Winnipeg police shot and killed his 16-year-old daughter Eishia Hudson. The shooting followed a pursuit in which police say Eishia drove a vehicle used in a liquor store robbery.

The shooting sparked vigils and protests, and earlier this year an inquest was called in her death. 

Her father says ever since Eishia died he tries to attend as many MMIWG events as he can.

"It's a good day but then also a hurting day," he said. "It hurts inside when I think about my daughter and why I am here and also standing with the other families and knowing and feeling their pain. It's tough for each and every family."

Nahanni Fonaine is NDP MLA for St. Johns. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns), who serves as party spokesperson for issues related to MMIWG2s, said there is much work left to address violence against MMIWG2S. 

She said the act of gathering helps those who have lost someone get through the day.

"Just the act of bringing people together to show in a very material way that their loved ones matter ... just the very act of doing that means so much to families," she said.

The day of events wrapped at sunset, with a display at the Manitoba Legislature designed by Natalie Thiessen in partnership with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. 

A red dress was projected onto the Manitoba Legislature Monday night. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

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With files from Stephanie Cram

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