Manitoba organization launches heart beading project for MMIWG2S awareness

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak launched a project on Feb. 14 asking people to bead hearts and share them on social media to raise awareness for MMIWG2S.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak giving away 200 beading kits

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak is giving away beading kits to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. (Submitted by Hilda Anderson-Pyrz)

Beaders are encouraged to show their hearts for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls through a new awareness project that is being led by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).

On Monday, the political advocacy group that represents 26 First Nations in northern Manitoba launched the Healing Hearts project. MKO plans on giving out over 200 beading kits to raise awareness of MMIWG2S.

"It's an education tool to use for individuals to get involved and become part of the solution in ending all forms of gender- and race-based violence against Indigenous women and girls and gender diverse people," said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, director of MKO's MMIWG Liaison Unit.

Anderson-Pyrz, who is from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, said it's important to continue raising awareness after the MMIWG inquiry and call on Canadians to take action.

"One of the key things is that the violence is still occurring and it's occurring at alarming rates against Indigenous women and girls and gender diverse people," said Anderson-Pyrz.

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz is the director of MKO’s MMIWG Liaison Unit. She says the Healing Hearts project is a chance for Canadians to participate in raising awareness. (Submitted by Hilda Anderson-Pyrz)

Isabel Daniels, a program co-ordinator at Velma's House in Winnipeg, a safe space for unsheltered and exploited women and people who identify as female, requested 25 kits for participants of the program this week. 

As a frontline worker, Daniels said she has seen life get tougher for many of the women, especially during the pandemic.

"We've lost nine clients since we opened [last year], and we just lost one last week," said Daniels, who is from Sagkeeng First Nation.

"We still have a lot of work to do …. Our women are not victims of their own demise. We don't choose this life. We don't choose to live like this. But sometimes circumstances in life just don't work out the way that we plan."

Nakuset, executive director at the Native Women's Shelter in Montreal, said projects like Healing Hearts should be brought to high schools across the country and go nationwide, similar to the Moosehide Campaign which calls on Canadians to take a stand against violence against women and children.

"If you want to raise awareness on MMIW, you have to go to the people that don't know about it, because all Indigenous people know about it," said Nakuset.

The project is also encouraging people to post their beadwork on social media using #healinghearts and #mkommiwg as hashtags.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1