The Lacombe Memorial Centre was recently home to a celebration of indigenous culture during the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival.
The event including Powwow dancers from Maskwacis, an elder wisdom exchange and the works of 20-year-old Tom Baril, who created the Forgotten Moccasins photo project.
“I use a pair of baby moccasins. I use them to represent the children affected by the missing and murdered indigenous women,” he said.
Baril came up with the idea after he saw the REDdress photo project by Mufty Mathewson, which highlights missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, at Edmonton School Board event he was shooting. Baril took the idea back to his photography instructor who tasked him with research MMIWG in Canada.
“After doing it for three months I realized no one was talking about the children. I set out to represent the children who aren’t being talked about,” he said.
Baril, who is Metis, said he personally empathizes with the children after seeing how his father was affected after he lost his mother.
“My dad lost his mother to a fire, not the way that other women are going missing but I saw the way it affected him. I can’t imagine my life without my mother,” he said.
Baril hopes that people who see his photos, which are on display at the LMC, come away from the experience with hope.
“There will be change and this is not something that will float away. People will remember the children and start telling other people,” he said.
So far, two of Baril’s photos are on display at CKUA and he has also presented in Saskatoon and Sudbury. Baril hopes he will be able to show his work at more gallery events like the one in Lacombe.
Baril also started a Facebook community, which currently has over 150 members.
He said many people have becomes emotional over his work.
“I do workshops in different schools. and the thing that hits home the most is when is when a mother comes up to me who has lost a child, or a child who has lost a mother,” he said.
Baril said his project is ongoing.
“Whenever I get a new photo idea, I go out and take the photo and post it on the Facebook group,” he said.