Inspiration comes in all forms, and when Lorelei Williams wanted to call attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, Beyonce empowered her.
Williams’ aunt, Belinda, has been missing since 1977. Her cousin was one of the many tragedies of the Pickton farm that went ignored for far too long. Williams started by printing two shirts with her aunt and cousin’s face on them, but quickly realized that if she really wanted to draw attention to the issue, she would need to explain what the shirts meant.
“Dance just came to me as an idea. At the time, Beyonce’s song, Run the World (Girls) was popular. I just really felt it was an empowering song,” says Williams. She gathered up a few friends and asked them to join her. The concept launched from that point.
“We didn’t realize how healing it would be, for all of us to dance together,” she said. “Families are able to heal together.”
Butterflies in Spirit has been calling attention to MMIW ever since that first performance. Since then, they’ve been asked to perform at conferences, community events and in other awareness-raising activities. They shut down a major Vancouver intersection several years ago with a performance, and had major press coverage of their work.
There’s still a long way to go to end violence against Indigenous women, in Williams’ view.
“It’s time to acknowledge that missing and murdered Indigenous women is an issue in this country,” Williams says, referring to what all Canadians can do to help this issue.
Though the group is heartened by the government’s promise of an inquiry, they acknowledge that the inquiry can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. Her advice to the government? “Listen to the families. They know best. They know the gaps. They know the flaws.”
Watch Butterflies in Spirit in action below: