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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


Lorelei is the founder of Butterflies in Spirit, a dance group of MMIWG families based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Beyond managing Butterflies in Spirit, she was the Women’s Coordinator at the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. This non- profit organization addresses Indigenous social justice issues and works to build stronger relationships between the Vancouver Police Department and Indigenous communities by promoting education, awareness and open dialogue. This was a very hard job for her considering the fraught history with the police. She also worked at WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre as an Indigenous Counsellor, and was a Coordinator at Golden Eagle Rising Society. Golden Eagle Rising Society is a not for profit provincial Indigenous organization that provides support, training and advocacy programs to initiatives and organizational efforts promoting and protecting Indigenous lives across the province of British Columbia. Lorelei also volunteers for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Collation in Vancouver, which is a diverse group of more than 25 urban community and political advocacy groups and family members of the missing and murdered. Lorelei is trained in Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy on Complex Trauma, which was started by Shirley Turcotte. This is a safe and effective method of working with clients who experience complex trauma. It’s a body-centred and person-centred approach to healing and is trauma informed. She truly believes this is what has saved her from getting any physical illnesses from the advocacy work she does. Lorelei is also a Researcher at Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI). SBI builds on Indigenous traditions of data gathering and knowledge transfer to create, disseminate, and put into action research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people.

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