Hundreds of butterflies made to honour women lost to violence

Meghan Kjartanson, CONTRIBUTOR 

Aiden Todd paints the word “Divas” on her butterfly in hopes of supporting the families who have lost loved ones to violence. THE PROJECTOR/ Meghan Kjartanson

The smell of sage fills the air at the Red River College indigenous student centre. They are using the sage to smudge the space. Counsellor Cheyenne Chartrand said it chases away negativity and welcomes the spirits of those who’ve passed.

“We want them to be present if they need to be, to show that this is being done in a good way,” said Chartrand.

She is guiding a group of people who are making 400 butterflies for the annual Women’s Memorial March of Manitoba on Feb. 14. The butterflies represent the resilience and strength of women affected by violence, especially those who have been lost, murdered, or left unreported.

Aiden Todd sits with Ninoondawah Richard. Todd is covering her butterfly with pink hearts and the word “divas.” Todd said it’s important for her to give continual support to the families who have lost women to violence.

“I couldn’t imagine losing a loved one and walking through a whole year not being able to see them or not having answers to my questions,” said Todd.

Ninoondawah Richard paints a butterfly for Jill Sinclair. THE PROJECTOR/
Meghan Kjartanson

She said she often drums or sings at different events throughout the year. She said it is important because violence against women is an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away.

Cities across the country host women’s marches. Winnipeg’s march honours all women affected by violence.

“In grief and loss there is no culture — there is no race or nationality to it,” said Chartrand.

The event focuses on conversations and healing.

“This is one of the first places that I started to do my own healing,” said Chartrand, whose 14-year-old sister, Amanda, was murdered in 1996.

Healing can be messy, said Chartrand. At first, she wanted to make Amanda’s death mean something.

“I just about drove myself crazy,” said Chartrand.

She took a break from organizing the event to deal with her sister’s death. This allowed her to realize that she needed to celebrate Amanda’s life in a positive way.

Kelley Sookram, who works in the community services department at RRC, came with her daughter Skylar. Sookram said she was feeling a bit helpless and wanted to help any way she could.

“I don’t want them to be forgotten,” said Sookram. “I don’t like to think that society is not acknowledging this or seeing it as a loss.”

Sookram said she thinks it’s important to pay tribute and to keep the spirits of these women alive.