In June 2019, the Department of Women and Gender Equity announced that the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society would receive support through the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Commemoration Fund for “At the Heart: Commemorative Mural Honouring our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls”.
The goal of the project was to create a large mural on the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre’s main street building to honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from the communities of Smithers and Witset and communities situated along Highway 16 which is also known as The Highway of Tears.
Since 2020, local families of missing and murdered women and girls, in close collaboration with professional local artists, the Raven-Tacuara Collective, and the friendship centre, worked through a trauma-informed creative process with facilitators and counsellors to create the beautiful mural which has just been finished.
The artists attended the workshops with the families and then collaborated with the families to create a symbolic representation of their stories, culture and traditions, heritage, territories and the hopes for future generations.
“This project is extremely important and is in fact crucial for much-needed community healing. We deliberately designed the project to support families to move through an authentic, culturally safe, highly supported trauma-informed process, harnessing the positive and transformative power of artistic expression for healing,” said Annette Morgan, executive director of the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre.
The mural is located at the very heart of downtown Smithers, sending a strong symbolic message of the importance of honouring Indigenous women and girls, and the importance of these stories to the community’s collective history and healing process.
“This legacy project has created an opportunity to raise awareness, heal and connect people. This mural and education activities we have planned, provide entirely new ways for our community to come together, learn and engage on such an important local and nation-wide issue. A heartfelt thank you to the project leads Elmira Sanati Nia and Lydia Howard for their gentle approach and dedication to involving loved ones with this memorial,” said Kristal Grenkie, a member of the centre’s board of directors and mural project participant.