Shades of our Sisters was an event held on Thursday June 21 at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. This event happened (intentionally or not) on National Indigenous Peoples Day. In recent years I have been learning quite a bit about the Indigenous people and culture. I am saddened that while growing up in Canada from infancy, I was never educated about Canada’s first inhabitants. Not in grade school, high school or even while earning two degrees. The only vague memory I have is of reading books in grade school about cowboys and Indians and even playing a game by the same name. Obviously, I now know that this was inappropriate.
While I have been aware that there have been many missing Indigenous men and women in Canada over the years, I have never been intimately exposed to personal information about any of these people. That is – until I attended this particular event.
Shades of our Sisters was created by two particular families to celebrate the lives of two missing and murdered Indigenous women in particular, Sonya Cywink from Birch Island, Ontario and Patricia Carpenter from Toronto, Ontario.
I was speechless as the event transported us back to the lives of these women. We participated in an interactive journey through their neighbourhoods, homes and interviews with their loved ones. In addition, there were exhibits that held personal artifacts that once belonged to the women.
I looked through each exhibit and I was moved by all the personal items displayed. Both women enjoyed writing poetry and some of their original work was available for viewing. There were also many photographs that spanned from their childhoods and numerous letters written on lined paper.
Many family members belonging to some of the missing women in Canada were present. The families of Patricia and Sonya were there and interacted with the participants. Nothing makes it more real, than watching a mother silently weep as videos of her murdered daughter play on a loop.
I was very moved by this event and also extremely saddened. While we have heard about the cases of these missing women in the news, attending this event showed me who they were. They are more than just a statistic. They are our daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties and friends.
I was honored to have attended