One of the moccasins created by Jessica McPhersons class at the Native American Lifelines of Baltimore.
One of the moccasins created by Jessica McPhersons class at the Native American Lifelines of Baltimore. (Submitted photo)

For Jessica McPherson, moccasin designing is more than an art project.

The artwork is part of a commemorative effort to remember Native American women who are missing or have been killed over the last 20 years in Canada and in the United States.

McPherson, 34, of North Hopewell Township, and about 40 of her art students are participating in "Walking With Our Sisters," moccasin decoration project started by Christi Belcourt, a Native Canadian artist.

The project's goal is to create more than 600 pairs of bead-decorated moccasin vamps (or tops) by July 15.

Then the moccasins would be arranged to be displayed in museums and art exhibits across Canada and possibly in the United States. The exhibit schedule is still being organized, according to Belcourt's website at www.christibelcourt.com.

Each pair of moccasin tops will represent the missing or murdered women, whose cases have received little attention from law enforcement, politicians and the media, according to Belcourt.

The exhibit would be displayed until 2017, McPherson said.

The purpose: The moccasin project demonstrates that the women are not forgotten, adds McPherson, who said she is a Pennsylvania Dutch Native American.

"It's kind of a prayer for each one of those women," she said.

McPherson said her class at Native American Lifelines of Baltimore, includes around 10 students from York County. The class started working on the moccasin project about six weeks ago.

McPherson said she hopes her students learn valuable life lessons while doing the project.

"I hope they take a moment to think about the people that are important to them and to honor those people," McPherson said. "I want people to remember always that as natives, we're still here. We're people that live now. We struggle to keep our culture going."

When the moccasins are displayed in exhibits and museums, McPherson said, she hopes people will take time to look at the artwork to understand the project's purpose.

"It's easy for us to pass by and forget about other people, but taking a quiet moment to see (the moccasins) allows us to better connect with one another, with our people, our ancestors," she said.

-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.