Walking With Our Sisters, the stirring moccasin-vamp exhibit honoring murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada and the United States, opens in Edmonton, Alberta, on October 2, beginning its six-year, 32-stop journey through dozens of cities.
The exhibit, as The Globe and Mail put it in an October 1 story, “is both a memorial and a call to action” that poses the question, “Why are indigenous women so vulnerable to violence, and why isn’t more done about it?”
It all started in July 2012, when Métis artist Christi Belcourt reached out on Facebook to gather collaborators for the art project, which would honor the 600 aboriginal women who have been documented as missing or murdered. Her goal was to assemble 600 pairs, but her call generated 1,723 pairs of vamps, the upper beaded part of the moccasin.
Strict protocol has been followed in setting up the exhibit, in line with Elders’ instructions, “as if the women are standing there,” Belcourt wrote on the Walking With Our Sisters Facebook page.
“We have created a sacred space,” she wrote. “We will pray together to acknowledge the lives of the women. Everything is about the women and about the families. The volunteers and organizing committee in Edmonton have ensured that everything that is done, is done with the utmost respect.”
Tanya Kappo, Cree, Sturgeon Lake First Nation, and one of the founders of Idle No More (she was first to use the hashtag that brought the movement viral), is the exhibit’s keeper. She is overseeing ceremonial protocols and connecting with local communities.
“The vamps have this intense energy around them that I can’t explain,” Kappo told The Globe and Mail. “It seems to grow as more people see and interact with them.”
The exhibit is scheduled to crisscross Canada and the U.S. through 2019, according to the Walking With Our Sisters website, with a stop in Michigan in 2016.