Christine Cardinal. Gloria Black Plume. Chelsea Poorman.
Three shelves of books are covered in colourful fabrics with names of women written in gold letters.
The bookshelves, known as a micro gallery, were installed Tuesday morning at the London Public Library’s Central Branch to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) from across Canada as a memorial.
The library is one of the many spaces throughout the country taking part in the Canadian Library project.
For Mary Lou Smoke, an Indigenous elder from the Anishinaabe, Lakota, and Mi’kmaq Nation, the micro gallery is more than a memorial.
Smoke’s sister, Debbie Ann Sloss-Clarke, was found murdered in her apartment more than two decades ago. Her name is printed on one of the book covers in the gallery.
“We were robbed,” said Smoke, who is a member of Batchewana Bay First Nation on Lake Superior. “When they killed my sister, it was like they stole from us.”
“[Debbie] is not just a statistic,” said Smoke. “She is my sister. She is an auntie. She is a grandmother. She had many friends, she would give her shirt off her back for people.”
Shanta Sundarason, founder of The Canadian Library, is an immigrant to Canada born to a British mother and a Sri Lankan father.
When she heard about mass graves of Indigenous children being found on sites of former residential schools in 2021, she felt a push to do something.
“The minute I learned some of the sad truths, it got me started on this journey to sort of find out more and to help educate those around me who I found really knew very little,” said Sundrason.
Sundrason works collaboratively with Indigenous communities, particularly with Elders, to learn while teaching others about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The gallery serves as a reminder that missing and murdered Indigenous women deserve to be seen as human instead of numbers.