On day to honour MMIWG, Indigenous women reflect on national inquiry, Viens Commission

Indigenous Women, Embodiment and Sovereignty is a two-day symposium happening Friday and Saturday at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montreal.

2-day symposium held in conjunction with Rebecca Belmore's Facing the Monumental exhibition

Anishnaabe artist Rebecca Belmore and curator Wanda Nanibush. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

From coast to coast to coast, Oct. 4 has become a day to honour and raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada.

For Wanda Nanibush, curator of Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), that means bringing the issue into an institutionalized space like the Musée d'art contemporain (MAC) de Montreal.

"Museums are primarily educational institutions, so they have a role to play in terms of a wider community that they're networked to, making them more aware of what's going on," said Nanibush.

Nanibush, along with Caroline Nepton-Hotte, an Innu doctoral student at the Université du Québec à Montréal, co-organized Indigenous Women, Embodiment and Sovereignty, a two-day symposium happening Friday and Saturday at MAC. It's part of the programming for Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore's Facing the Monumental exhibition. 

Rebecca Belmore's artwork sister (2010), colour inkjet on transparencies and fluorescent light. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

A significant amount of Belmore's work explores issues around MMIWG. One of Belmore's pieces, 1181 (2014), was created over the course of a day in Toronto. She hammered 1,181 nails into a tree stump, each nail representing a police-recorded case of murdered and missing Indigenous women as per the RCMP's statistics in their 2014 report.

The two days will include guest speakers such as national inquiry commissioners Michèle Audette and Qajaq Robinson, as well as Rebecca Belmore, Édith Cloutier, Kahente Horn-Miller, Mylène Jaccoud and Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.

Robinson and lawyer Fanny Wylde spoke at the symposium on Friday.

"The inquiry was not a study about Indigenous women and girls. It is the study of systems and our society," said Robinson.

Nanibush and Nepton-Hotte said it's important that institutions like the museum to give space to Indigenous women to reflect on issues addressed in the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls' final report, as well as the recently published Viens Commission report.

Nanibush said it's necessary to connect the trauma inflicted upon Indigenous Peoples, whether it's violence against women or residential schools or colonialism in general.

"All these kinds of things are interrelated and they've been treated very separately for a long time," said Nanibush.