A beautiful pebble mosaic honouring sexual assault survivors and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) is now part of Millennium Park in Peterborough, Ont. The monument was unveiled on Thursday, June 20, and Liz Stone, Academic Chair of Indigenous Perspectives in Fleming’s School of General Arts and Sciences, was one of many celebrating its completion.
Liz, who was the Executive Director of Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle and was involved in this project since its inception, said “Instead of feeling like an accomplishment, it felt like a start of something or continuation. I felt invigorated; it gave a lot of people a lot of energy, looking at what we did and how we can continue.”
Liz shared that it was emotional to see all of the different pockets of her life come together at the unveiling. In attendance were family members, Fleming College students and colleagues, professional connections, members of Indigenous communities and more. “Having everyone in the same place was humbling and exciting,” she said.
The project is a collaboration between Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, and the First Peoples House of Learning. Toronto-based non-profit Red Dress Productions, which creates collaborative art projects for public spaces, partnered to create the mosaic and provided the stones.
“By necessity, not-for-profits build relationships because there isn’t any other way to get things done,” Liz explains. “But all of our jobs should be part of relationship building.”
The Millennium Park location was chosen because of its medicine wheel garden, created years ago by a not-for-profit collective whose focus was to create meaningful and respectful relationships with Indigenous people in Peterborough. Liz shared that they were looking for a way to grow that space in Millennium Park when Lisa Clarke, Executive Director of Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, approached them to collaborate with Red Dress Productions on a Countdown Public Art Legacy Project.
Launched in 2016, the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project is a series of pebble mosaics honouring sexual assault survivors across Ontario and currently has eight locations. The Peterborough mosaic build included 75 volunteers.
“The issues that I face as an Indigenous woman, they’re daunting. They’re big and they can drag someone down,” she shared. “For MMIW, I live in a city, not on a reserve, and my last name is anglicized; if I were to go missing, I would not be identified as an MMIW. I wouldn’t be counted in those statistics unless someone identified me as Indigenous. The importance of this is that it lifts up that heaviness to see that I have help and support, and in turn other marginalized groups have help and support. For marginalized people it can be depressing, but I can use my privilege of being at decision-making tables as a superpower to help others.”