IMPACT

Evan Munday Ends Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Women Portraits

01/14/2015 06:59 EST | Updated 01/14/2015 07:59 EST

Last week, Toronto artist Evan Munday started posting portraits of missing and murdered aboriginal women to Twitter, directing them at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

His aim was to make the issue a bigger priority for the federal government after Harper admitted in an interview an inquiry into missing and murdered cases wasn't "high" on its radar.

Here are the first two portraits that Munday drew as part of his project:

Munday planned to spend over three years drawing pictures of the women. But he posted his last portrait on Monday, saying in a Wednesday blog post that he "cannot continue the project in a way that respects these women's autonomy or a way that helps rather than harms the families of these thousands of women."

"I apologize for hurting the families of these women and for making them relive painful memories," Munday wrote.

The artist said that he started this project on an "impulse," and realized early that he was a "dilettante" on indigenous issues.

He spoke with representatives of organizations such as the Native Women's Association of Canada and Walking With Our Sisters to see if they would support the project.

"The last thing I wanted to be was a Macklemore, showing up with concern to an issue late, having no personal connection to (and not much knowledge of) the issue, and receiving much undue credit for a symbolic gesture," Munday wrote.

But last weekend, families of missing and murdered aboriginal women contacted the artist and said they "had not consented to have their loved ones' images used in this manner."

They also found the portraits themselves cartoon-like and inappropriate – a reaction that pushed Munday's decision to end the project.

This is not the first situation in which questions have arisen around how to be an ally to indigenous struggles.

Métis writer Chelsea Vowel, who blogs under the name âpihtawikosisân, talked about allyship in a blog post for Rabble last year.

She said many people ask "How can I help?" when they learn about indigenous issues. The answer, Vowel wrote, is a complex one, but she boiled it down to two points:

- Believe that indigenous peoples have the power to find solutions for ourselves.

- Support our efforts in ways that ensure the solutions we enact continue to happen.

Vowel went on to explain how many indigenous-led projects need support such as money, or people to "wash dishes so that the work can continue."

"It may not be [a] glorious and glamourous revolution, but in my opinion, on-the-ground support is worth a thousand political speeches," she said.

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