• National Day to Commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Oct 12, 2017

On October 4 of every year, vigils are held coast to coast to honour Sisters in Spirit, as part of National Day to Commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. At the invitation of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre (VDNFC), close to 100 people gathered together in downtown Val-d’Or, each holding a candle in quiet reflection, to show their support for the cause. Isabelle Mapachee, a traditional dancer and an inspiration to all, spoke of the need always “to remember a sister who is no longer with us, but is still here in spirit through her family and the memories we share with one another.”

An honour song was played by a group of drummers from Pikogan. It served as a strong symbol to illustrate the unity of the participants, whose hearts were all beating as one. During the course of the evening, Édith Cloutier, who is the Executive Director of the VDNFC, and other speakers paid tribute to the solidarity in the region, the strength shown by the victims’ families and friends, and the day-by-day journey towards healing.

Virginia Pésémapéo Bordeleau recited the moving poem she wrote in honour of Sindy Ruperthouse, an Anicinabe member from Pikogan who has been missing since the spring of 2014. Her reading was accompanied by a jingle dance, noble in gesture and a symbol of healing, performed by a Pikogan troupe. The final verses of the poem poignantly captured the sadness of Sindy’s family:

You’ll never again be in our family photos

Where are you, Sindy?

The courage of those who love you has no boundaries

You’ll never be a grandma

Tell us your secret, the truth

No pain releases so much power as a lost child


Political representatives were also at the vigil. Pierre Corbeil (mayor of Val-d’Or) and Alice Jérôme (former Chief of Pikogan and Sindy Ruperthouse’s aunt) spoke about the need to put an end to racism and discrimination. They encouraged the participants to cultivate openness, respect, peace, serenity, and pride in being First Nations members.

Next, Émilie Ruperthouse and Johnny Wylde, who are Sindy’s parents, spoke. Each holding an eagle feather, they gave a moving testimony. They told about the numerous searches throughout Quebec to find their daughter. The family has been through so much already but is not giving up: “We’ve searched everywhere and it’s not over. I’ll keep going until I find her. I’m afraid because winter is coming; that means such a long time when you can’t go looking in the woods.”

To close the evening, Cree singer-songwriter Mélissa Pash played her guitar and sang two songs on the themes of strength and the importance of living one’s emotions. The participants then put out their candles, but the light of hope remained.