Kitimat unveils metal memorial tree for missing and murdered indigenous women

A welded and sculpted metal tree created by two Grade 12 students in memory of Canada’s murdered and missing indigenous women and girls was unveiled in the lobby of the Kitimat Valley Institute on Friday, October 4, 2109, where it will be on permanent display.

The tree was created by Trinity Harry, 17,  Ojibwa Nation, from Little Black River, Manitoba and Joseph Ginter, 16, Ojie-Cree, from Garden Hill, Manitoba, students at the Russell Vocational High School in Winnipeg. The project was supported by the Arx & Sparx Welding Camp Program and the CWBwelding Foundation with sponsorship from LNG Canada.  The company is supporting welding camps for young people to introduce them to a career in the skilled trades.

The memorial tree features a red dress, part of the Red Dress Project created by artist Jamie Black to bring attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada by displaying red dress related art work across Canada. Most of the women, speakers and guests at the unveiling wore a red dress at the ceremony.

Harry and Ginter, along with their instructors, spent over 300 hours designing and fabricating the tree.

The memorial tree. (Robin Rowland)

A plaque describes the tree as “dying.”  Fallen leaves on the base represent the fallen indigenous women and girls. Future welding classes will  add more leaves to honour more women.

The fallen leaves call for justice.( Robin Rowland)
The leaves symbolize the indigenous women lost on Turtle Island (Robin Rowland)
An eagle sits high in one of the branches of the tree (Robin Rowland)

The eagle represents the love for the missing.

A salmon in the eagle’s talons. (Robin Rowland)

The salmon represents the Haisla Nation on whose traditional territory the sculpture is displayed.

The red of the dress has important spiritual value for many indigenous people in North America. (Robin Rowland)

According to the RCMP, at least 1200 indigenous women have been murdered or have gone missing during the past 30 years.  The plaque says the red dress was chosen because “So red is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us or have their voices heard through their family members and community.”

The memorial tree. (Robin Rowland)

 

Haisla Nation chief counsellor Crystal Smith speaks to the gathering (Robin Rowland)
LNG Canada CEO Peter Zebedee speaks to the gathering. Listening is Haisla Elder Marilyn Furlan. (Robin Rowland)
Brenda Wilson of the Gitxsan Nation gave a moving address. Brenda’ sister Ramona was murdered near Smithers in 1995. (Robin Rowland)
Haisla Elder Nelson Grant presents Brenda Wilson with a blanket in recognition of her work in leading an awareness march along the Highway of Tears. (Robin Rowland)
Haisla Elder Nelson Grant presents Ann Bozoki of the Lheidi T’enneh Nation and the Khast’an drummers with a blanket in recognition of her work in raising awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women. (Robin Rowland)
Haisla Elder Nelson Grant presents LNG Canada CEO Peter Zebedee with a blanket to thank him for the company support of the project the led to the memorial tree.(Robin Rowland)
As can be seen in this group shot most of the women present wore red dresses for the unveiling ceremony. (Robin Rowland)

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