A bronze woman dancing on a blue cloud with silver eagle wings is now looking down on those who walk by Saskatoon police headquarters.
The “Red Star Dancer” monument to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was unveiled in front of more than 300 people during a ceremony Friday.
Mothers who have lost their daughters pulled back the curtains on Lionel Peyachew’s creation, with many families bursting into tears at the sight.
“It’s very meaningful,” said Jamie Yuzicappi, who lost her best friend to violence. “It’s more than just a statue.”
During the ceremony, Yuzicappi clutched a school portrait of Beverly Little Crow, who died in hospital after being attacked on Jan. 24, 2016.
The dancer in the centre honours Little Crow, and all other Indigenous women and girls lost to violence.
“It represents strength and beauty,” Yuzicappi said.
Police Chief Clive Weighill said the idea for the monument was sparked in 2007, when the city had a temporary moratorium on erecting public statues.
He thanked members of FSIN, Women Walking Together, the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the city for working hard on making the “Red Star Dancer” a reality.
“It’s our hope that this monument … will serve as a beacon to all residents of Saskatoon,” Weighill said.
He added the monument could serve as a place for families to remember, and as a meeting point for tributes and awareness walks on the issue.
“It’s our way for the police service to stretch our arms to the community in a gesture of support to the families and make a statement that we care,” he said.
“To all the families here, take solace that you’re loved ones are not forgotten.”
The sculptor who created the statue said he drew his inspiration from the story of Amber Tara Lynn Redmond, a woman who was killed when she was 19 in 2005.
She was a fancy dancer who her mother said looked like an “eagle on a cloud” when she danced.
“That just sort of hit,” Lionel Peyachew said. “So I started drawing and this is what I came up with.”
Dignitaries from governments and Indigenous leaders spoke at the ceremony, many acknowledging the monument’s unveiling as a step in the right direction.
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the entire country must “do better.”
“The loss of these indigenous women and girls is a national tragedy,” she said. “It is a stark reminder of the debilitating impacts of the ongoing colonial legacy.”
Wilson-Raybould also noted the Saskatoon police headquarters monument was an act of “true reconciliation.”
“This is truly an important step in the history of our country.”