Selkirk healing space, art project honours murdered, missing Indigenous women and girls

·3 min read

Jeannie White Bird understands the pain and the agony that many who have lost loved ones to violence are forced to deal with, and that is why she believes a brand new healing space and art project in Selkirk is going to be such an important addition to the community.

“I lost my mother when I was just four years old, and my siblings were all very young when we lost our mother, so we all grew up as victims of violence,” said White Bird, a Selkirk resident and member of the Rolling River First Nation.

On Monday, White Bird was on the grounds of the Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk where a brand new public healing space and art installation that she and others have been working on for more than two years was unveiled.

The Sacred Spirits of Turtle Island MMIWG2S+ Mural project is an elaborate public space that includes four large murals created by local artists that are placed to create a circle, and to look like a turtle from overhead.

White Bird said the spot within those four murals will now be a healing space for those who have lost loved ones to violence, and a place to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The idea for the project came to White Bird not long after speaking publicly about the death of her own mother before the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls back in 2017.

After the inquiry, the federal government created a $13 million commemoration fund for projects meant to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

White Bird submitted a proposal for the mural and healing space project on behalf of the Interlake Art Board and Rolling River First Nation, and her project was selected to receive $50,000.

A number of local artists were brought on board to work on the project, and White Bird says now that it is complete the focus of it must be about supporting families who have lost loved ones to violence, and remembering the thousands of Indigenous women and girls in this country that have gone missing or been murdered.

“This is all about the families, and that is what the focus of today must be,” White Bird said. “Today is about commemorating missing and murdered women and girls, and today is a healing event and a healing day for families.”

White Bird said her and the artists that created the space didn’t do it without feedback, as throughout the two years they worked on it they consulted with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to talk about what they would like to see included, and that feedback was used to create many aspects of the project.

Monday was an emotional day for White Bird not only because of the unveiling of the space, but also because Oct. 4 is recognized as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day in this province.

White Bird said she knows the day is important because of how many Indigenous families in this province have dealt with someone they love being murdered or going missing.

“It’s something that so many families have lived through, and there are so many people that we know are struggling,” she said. “This space is for them, it is to come and to reflect and to speak to others.

“It’s a place they can come while they walk on their healing journey.”

On Monday, the province announced they would put their support behind Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day, by announcing funding of $50,000 that will go towards a number of events that took place in the province, including the Sacred Spirits of Turtle Island MMIWG2S+ Mural project unveiling ceremony in Selkirk.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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