The City of Edmonton, with organizing partners from Esquao, the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW), hosted a gathering and commemorative event at City Hall this evening in recognition of Sisters in Spirit Day in Edmonton.
Sisters in Spirit Day is held annually to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people, to support grieving families and loved ones, and to create opportunities for community healing. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi spoke on the collective strength, determination, and resiliency of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.
“As the City of Edmonton works to act on the 94 Calls to Action laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we remain committed to advancing justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people,” said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. “Events like ‘Sisters in Spirit Day’ promote public education and awareness for settlers, while creating opportunities for community healing and support for Indigenous communities. The City of Edmonton is proud to support this initiative, and we grieve alongside the many families and community members who have lost a loved one in the MMIWG2S+ crisis.”
The event featured an opening prayer by Elder Tom Snow a performance by jingle dress dancers, accompanied by the drum group, the Thunderbird Sisters. Kari Thomason from Edmonton Police Service, a community advocate and educator who supports individuals wanting to leave the sex trade, was the guest speaker.
“Esquao, IAAW, stands in unwavering solidarity with our Indigenous sisters at the Sisters in Spirit gathering,” said Rachelle Venne, CEO of Esquao, IAAW. “On October 4, we gather to honour the lives of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals, offer unwavering support to grieving families, and foster the pathways to healing. For far too long, the voices of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse peoples have been silenced and their stories overlooked. This annual event is a solemn reminder of the urgent need to address the systemic issues that have led to the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Turtle Island. Together, we can amplify the voices of our sisters and work towards a future where Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals are free from violence and harm.”
Originally started in 2005, the Sisters in Spirit initiative was driven and led by Indigenous women and the Native Women’s Association of Canada to conduct research and raise awareness of the alarmingly high violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people.
In 2022, the Government of Alberta officially designated October 4 to be recognized as “Sisters in Spirit Day” in Alberta. Vigils and community events have been organized and held in various cities, often including a ceremony and walk in commemoration and memory of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people across Canada.
The City of Edmonton’s journey to strengthen and build relationships with Indigenous Peoples is guided and inspired by the Elder-shared concept of wahigicicobi, a lethka Nakoda word meaning “kinship relationships,” and is demonstrated through the City’s Indigenous Framework.