Butterflies in Spirit: Dance, Healing, & MMIWG builds on the years of community healing work Lorelei Williams has done with her dance group, Butterflies in Spirit. Founded in 2012, Butterflies in Spirit is a dance group consisting of family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). With a mission to raise awareness of violence against Aboriginal women and girls, Butterflies in Spirit has performed at numerous gatherings and events throughout Canada, the US, and has traveled as far as Bogota, Colombia to perform at an International Women’s World Peace event. On stage, members of the group wear shirts depicting images of their missing and murdered loved ones.


This project is 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 crisis of MMIWG. This work has three components--(1) research on the healing benefits of dance for both Native survivors of violence (trafficking, sexual assault) and families of victims (2) capacity and skills building workshops and knowledge sharing with partnering Indigenous communities in Northern California (3) creation of public service announcements building awareness on violence against Indigenous women and girls.


This project is the result of a collaboration between Native Women’s Collective, a nonprofit organization that supports the continued growth of Native American arts and culture throughout Northern California and beyond. This project is also a Leading Community Researcher project. In these projects, SBI provides support to Leading Community Researchers, who are Indigenous scholars, community organizers, and data visualists engaged in critical, innovative work to help us better understand, address, and prevent gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people. The support we provide to these leading community researchers is designed to support them in the good work they continue to do as leaders; each researcher is provided a stipend, assistance from an RA, financial support for their project, and support and feedback from SBI staff, Board, and partners as needed. We are proud of the interdisciplinarity, diversity, intellect, and heart each one brings to the work they are doing with SBI and for our peoples.



Lorelei Williams (Skatin Nation, Sts'Ailes) serves as the women’s coordinator for the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre, assists in an Aboriginal-focused therapy program on complex trauma at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and works to facilitate positive relationships between law enforcement, women who have experienced violence, and families of missing and murdered women. She came to this work as a survivor of physical and sexual violence, and as the niece of Belinda Williams (missing since 1978), and cousin to Tanya Holyk (Tanya was murdered by Robert Pickton in 1996).