Lorelei Williams (Indigenous Women in Community Leadership, 2018) is an Interior Salish/Coast Salish woman from Skatin Nations/Sts’Ailes, Vancouver, BC.
When she arrived at Coady Institute for the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program in 2018, she was the Women’s Coordinator for the Vancouver Aboriginal Policing Centre.
“I worked with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, women in violent situations, and women in the Downtown Eastside,” Lorelei says.
“I tried to build positive relationships between the community and the police which was very hard considering our history.”
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) epidemic has been described as a Canadian national crisis and a Canadian genocide – a national inquiry was launched in 2015 which resulted in the Reclaiming Power and Place report calling for “transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country.”
When Lorelei Williams had a dance performance in honor of her missing Aunt and cousin, she soon realized a way to get the public to notice the epidemic of Indigenous girls going missing.
Now, Lorelei is raising awareness and advocating for victims and families of MMIWG through Butterflies in Spirit – a dance group she founded in 2012. The group is comprised of family members of MMIWG and was formed with the goal of empowering Indigenous women in her community, and raising awareness about her aunt Belinda Williams who went missing in 1978, and her cousin Tanya Holyk who was murdered in 1996.
“As a family member of both missing and murdered Indigenous women, I do what I can to raise awareness of this issue so this doesn’t happen to more families,” Lorelei says.
As a Research Assistant at Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI), located on Wiyot and Ohlone territories, in Northern California, Lorelei is developing “Butterflies in Spirit: Dance, Healing, MMIWG” – a project aimed at producing an understanding and awareness of how dance can be utilized as healing practice for both Indigenous survivors of violence and their families, as well as those impacted by the MMIWG crisis, through research, skill-building, and public awareness.
She is also part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition, a diverse group of more than 25 urban community and political advocacy groups and family members of MMIWG.
“My wish is that violence would end for women and girls around the world.”
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