By Kelly Anne Smith
NORTH BAY –Art, conversation, ceremony and vigil honoured Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on the National Day of Remembrance and Action and Action on Violence Against Women at Nipissing University.
Director of Indigenous Initiatives Tanya Linklater facilitated a panel of artists in an installation at the university theatre. Linklater began by saying she takes responsibility. “I think about the Indigenous people who live in North Bay. I think of my relationship as a community member to consider the ways in which I can support and help.” Linklater named reasons behind the violence against women. “Numerous reports and studies identify racism, sexism, the legacy of colonialism and the devastation caused by the Indian Residential School System.”
The Ontario is strategizing action against violence against indigenous women because they make up 1.2 % of the population and are 6% of homicide victims.
The art installation showcased Gerry McComb, Thaila Sarazin and Pauline Sutherland. The artists spoke of their work helping to educate the public and inspire feelings for healing to surface.
Fine Art graduate Gerry McComb talked about the importance of art to keep stories alive and to preserve traditional cultural beliefs. On the important day of honouring, McComb stressed that men must be respectful to women. McComb described his warm feelings when he sees a person become emotional or get a look of understanding from one of his paintings.
A second year Fine Art student, Pauline Sutherland from Fort Albany First Nation, was introduced as a mother, a grandmother and a wife. “Art can educate the public!” Sutherland talked about being immersed in cultural and traditional artwork as a child.
Recent Fine Arts graduate, Thaila Sarazin is a member of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation who walks the Red Road. Sarazin is passionate about her art enabling conversations with patrons she normally wouldn’t have.
The congregation moved to the art installation in the foyer where Elder in Residence Carole Guppy gave words of wisdom. “On December 6, we honour the 14 women who lost their lives in 1989.”
Guppy gave an offering of water and strawberries in ceremony. “I like to use them as they are the first fruit to ripen. They used to be much smaller and they would have tasted so good after the long winter.”
And then Guppy gave thanks to water. “Miigwetch for this water. Water is sacred. They say Water is a resource. The next thing they are going to say is that air is a resource. Water is life.”
Grandmother Lorraine Whiteduck Liberty offered that we should all take action and to begin, we must address our children who commit violence with kindness. She said, Miigwetch for people with creative abilities.
Gerry McComb and Darren Nagogee then sang an Honour Song. All those in attendance received a lovely hug from Carol Guppy before walking out into the dark night to have a vigil for victims and survivors of violence.
Amy Raymond, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator led the circle with everyone holding candles lit by Casey Philips, the Director of Student Development and Services. “Step forward, all who have felt the effects of violence against women?” All the men and women present stepped forward.
The importance of the delicate acts of honouring and healing cumulated in the place of gathering, Enji-giigdoyang. “Now there is a feast,” beamed Carol Guppy.