One blanket, one family, one purpose
- NC Raine | February 25, 2022
This month, families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Individuals (MMIWG2S) are creating a special starblanket as a way to raise awareness and to remember their loved ones.
The starblanket, historically created by the Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda people, symbolizes strength and community. It’s believed that when one wraps themselves in the quilt they’re surrounding themselves with their ancestors.
The starblanket project is part of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan’s (AFCS) Re-Igniting Sacred Fires, an initiative designed to raise awareness of the national inquiry into MMIWG2S and to support those affected by such tragedies.
“When a blanket-maker makes a starblanket, every stitch has an intention, has a prayer behind it,” said Alicia Buckley, program director at AFCS. “So that’s how we wanted this commemorative piece to be built,” She said, a blanket is symbolic of what they can offer survivors and families.
“If they need that wrap-around support (and) that feeling of warmth and safety in whatever they’re doing,” said Buckley.
The project will take place during four sessions in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and North Battleford. Registered participants will create individual squares, which will be weaved together with the help of starblanket makers and Knowledge Keepers. Mental health support workers and Elders will also be present to help make the experience one of hope and healing.
“A lack of recent connection has really fueled this (project),” said Buckley. “We have noticed MMIWG2S has really taken a backseat to COVID and that can’t be the case. Especially when we’ve seen the numbers of domestic and gender-based violence skyrocket. We need to ensure awareness is front and top of mind.”
A ceremony to bring the blanket to life will be held once it’s complete. From there, the starblanket will be displayed at the AFCS office in Saskatoon and will be made available for vigils, ceremonies, round dances, and anything else that shines a light on MMIWG2S, said Buckley.
Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik, a coalition that provides moral support to families of MMIWG2S by creating opportunities for them to tell their stories, is partnering with AFCS to bring together the survivors and families to create the blanket.
“Just the idea of us sitting together and creating this blanket together, it’s a reminder for the families that they’re not alone,” said Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, co-chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik. “It’s a way to share that this person is loved and missed. This is our way of continuing their legacy.”
Okemaysim-Sicotte, who has been impacted by MMIWG2S, says it never really gets easier, but events like this let her and affected family members know there is shared love and compassion in the community. She hopes the starblanket will impact the community at large.
“Awareness isn’t just the images you see on social media or in a news article,” said Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte. “Art is a way to see our stories and connect with them in a visual way. A way that can impact... from the head to the heart.”