'Symbol of power and strength': Monument unveiled in Prince Albert to remember the missing and murdered

Indigenous leaders behind a pair of statues along Prince Albert’s riverbank hope the monument becomes a space to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

The Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission has been working on the monument for years, according to Chair Shirley Henderson. The two statues were unveiled Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s something we’ve been dreaming of for a long time,” said Henderson.

“We wanted to have something that would remember the missing and murdered women, and when you see the statue, you’ll find out that it affects the grandmother, the children. The whole family is affected when a mother goes missing.”

The unveiling is part of a two-day event to honour MMIWG and residential school victims. It includes a memorial walk on Thursday morning, which the women’s commission has been hosting for 15 years.

“Families have said it brings them together,” said Henderson. “They grieve together, they talk, so our walk is a way of healing.”

'I WANTED TO HELP'

Tristen Sanderson designed the statues, which were sculpted by Lionel Peyachew. This is Peyachew’s second MMIWG statue, the other in front of the Saskatoon police station.

“The red warrior paint on their face is a symbol of power and strength and the knowledge that they carry that’s naturally in our blood that’s a gift from our ancestors,” explained Sanderson.

She said she gifts portraits of missing and murdered women across North America to their families.

“I wanted to help as much as I could, my people, in the way I could,” she said.

“I’m an artist. That’s all I have, right?”

The monument unveiling included a variety of speakers from the Prince Albert Grand Council, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Métis Nation Saskatchewan and the City of Prince Albert. Elder Leonard Ermine began the event by blessing the statues with a smudge.

Regina Poitras, the mother of missing Happy Charles, was also in attendance. Charles’ daughters drummed for the crowd of about 100 people.

Some speakers acknowledged the significance of the monument’s location along riverbank, with the water representing a lifeline and interconnectedness.

They also said it aims to be a space for the city’s homeless to gather and grieve, as many are Indigenous and affected by MMIWG.