In photos: MMIWG+ honoured through red dress events, ceremonies

On the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and gender-diverse kin — also known as Red Dress Day — people in Coast Salish and Okanagan territories came together to remember, honour, and advocate for change.

The haunting sight of red dresses, hung from trees or fences, or the red handprints painted on signs or across faces has become synonymous with grief and pain for all the Indigenous women who have been lost to violence. 

The red dress movement can be linked to an exhibition by artist Jaime Black in 2010, but has taken a life of its own over the years, as individuals and communities find creative ways to raise awareness for the thousands of unsolved cases on the gendered and racialized violent crimes against Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse people.

On Wednesday, May 5, communities across the country came together to mourn, share stories and hold ceremonies during the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls — also known as Red Dress Day.

The heaviness of the day weighed on the hearts of many.

At IndigiNews, our team came together virtually to share and support one another before honouring the day in our own individual ways — we smudged, named names, listened and shared, and then set off to cover events in our own communities, gather with loved ones in support, or work on sharing resources for allies. 

From Vancouver Island to Vancouver to the Okanagan, here are some photos from Red Dress Day.

In Vancouver

A few dozen people wearing red gathered at Vancouver City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. With COVID-19 protocols in place, women shared their stories and people came together in song and dance. Many people also brought signs with slogans such as “no more stolen sisters” and tobacco ties were offered.  Photo by Cara McKenna.
Diana Day, the Lead Matriarch with the Pacific Association of First Nations Women (PAFNW), closed the event with some words about her organization. PAFNW supported the gathering as part of a wider Indigenous Women’s Council.  Photo by Cara McKenna.
After the event at city hall, the family of April Lee-Ann Christine Parisian organized a separate march and the hanging of red dresses from overpasses along Highway 1 from Vancouver to Hope, B.C., where Parisian grew up. Parisian is a 45-year-old Ojibwe woman with mixed heritage and her family says they last heard from her on April 5, 2020. The family is appealing for information about her disappearance in hopes of bringing her home and has set up an email account as a point of contact: Photo by Cara McKenna.

In the Okanagan

Over the ocean and across the mountains in Syilx territory, ceremonies were held in a variety of ways. Some families chose to do a 5 km walk to raise awareness, and some chose to honour the lives of Indigenous women in their own personal ceremonies on the land. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna.
At Inkumupulux (Head of Okanagan Lake), IndigiNews reporter Kelsie Kilawna, alongside her family, went to the waters to say prayers and come together collectively with the timxw (land spirits) to awaken and feed the helpers and rejuvenate their spirit. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna.
‘We come together to the land in spirit; this is when we are our most powerful. To awaken the spirits of the land brings the helpers to help us do the work for our sisters. Voices are only amplified when we the people, the land, the animals come together as a collective,’ says Skimheest about the meaning of the day. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna.
A male and female duck followed along as the pictures were being taken and swam around the roses for the remainder of the evening until the ceremony began. Ducks hold medicine that shares that now is a good time to take care of your spirit. The duck is closely tied to water medicine, which is female energy in Syilx teachings. A message very welcomed by the family. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna.

On Vancouver Island

Songs were shared by those who gathered to commemorate Red Dress Day on unceded Snuneymuxw territory. Community members came together on an Island Highway overpass to hang red dresses while wearing t-shirts from the Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society 60×60 challenge. For 60 days, participants were challenged to walk or run to bring awareness to MMIWGT2S. Thousands of people across Canada participated in the challenge and represented the t-shirts. Photo by Anna McKenzie.
A red dress hanging from an overpass on so-called Vancouver Island Highway following a gathering organized by Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society. Passers-by honked in support of community members donning red shirts, singing songs and drumming. Photo by Anna McKenzie.

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