K’omoks First Nation is hosting the memorial installation, Walking With Our Sisters, from July 31 through August 15 at the K’omoks Band Hall.
WWOS honours missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls from across North America. The exhibit consists of 1,810 pairs of beaded moccasin tops, called vamps, that have been created by over 1,400 artists.
This will be the first visit to Vancouver Island for the exhibit. After K’omoks, WWOS is scheduled to make stops at 22 locations across North America over the next five years, before the final closing ceremony in Batoche, Saskatchewan in September 2019.
I-Hos Gallery Manager Ramona Johnson is serving as event coordinator for WWOS K’omoks. Johnson said with the growing public focus on missing and murdered aboriginal women, the travelling exhibit has evolved from an art show into a powerful, shared grieving process for families and friends of the victims, and for communities across Canada.
“This [event] all started with me sending out an e-mail three years ago,” Johnson said. “I wanted to bring in the vamps as an exhibit for I-Hos Gallery.” In the intervening time, WWOS has taken on a national role.
K’omoks will be the thirteenth stop on the WWOS tour, and the event now involves dozens of volunteers. Organizers stress that, despite the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, WWOS is non-political and non-partisan.
Johnson said the exhibit arrives on July 27, when there will be a formal transfer ceremony from the Eastern Nation that currently has possession of the vamps. The transfer process and set-up of the exhibit will be closed to the public, but media will be invited to attend and take photographs. Four days have been set aside for set-up.
The exhibit will be opened to the public at 1 p.m. on July 31. According to Johnson, the opening ceremony will follow traditional Pacific Northwest First Nations potlatch protocol.
“It will open with a traditional mourning ceremony,” Johnson said. One family member will represent the families of all missing and murdered women, she explained.
Those who plan to take in WWOS, take note: photographs will not be allowed from July 31 through August 15, out of respect for the families.
According to the Open Letter of Invitation, K’omoks is working with Tsow Tun Le Lum, Comox Valley Transition Society and Kwakiutl District Council Health to develop on-site supports for family members who attend.
The K’omoks Band Hall is located at 3330 Comox Road in Courtenay.