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Red Dress marchers full of hope

By May 9, 2024No Comments
Roughly 200 people took part in the Red Dress Day march from City Hall on Friday to honour missing, murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. The event kicked off with a pipe ceremony at the Native Friendship Centre. Geoff Lee Meridian Source

 

Awareness is the takeaway message of hope from this year’s Red Dress Day march in Lloydminster.

About 200 people took part in the march from City Hall to the Native Friendship Centre on Friday carrying a banner in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People.

“It’s sombre, but it’s also hopeful. We’re bringing awareness,” said Lori Harris, education coordinator at the friendship centre following a pipe ceremony attended by about 90 people.

“As soon as you bring awareness, it brings hope for the families who do have someone missing or someone who has passed.”

That is certainly the case for some First Nations students from Holy Rosary High School who came with Cynthia Young, Indigenous program coordinator with the Lloydminster Catholic School Division.

“Lots of them have aunts that have been taken. Lots of them have a purpose to walk,” said Young.

“The more awareness we can provide for our community and society, the more attention there might be on this tragic thing.”

Grade 12 student Zoe Klarenbach has a sister who is a First Nation student and she came to be more educated about Red Dress issues.

“I really want to learn more about the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis to help better to support my sisters. It’s important to have solidarity among women,” said Klarenbach. 

Red Dress Day, normally celebrated on May 5, is all about hope and healing for Chelsea Dieter from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan on Treaty 4 territory.

“I’m here to support the families and the people that are impacted by the missing and murdered Indigenous women and also for myself,” said Dieter. 

“I have a sister that passed on in 2013; she was killed and so our family did not get the justice we deserve. I walk with that every day, with that story on my back.”

Dieter marched wearing a red dress and talked about how empowering that is for Indigenous people.

“The symbolism of the red dress is representing those missing and murdered Indigenous women, children, two-spirited. We wear that in honour of them and to remember them and hope that our families find healing,” she explained.

In 2010, Metis artist Jaime Black did an art installation of red dresses to address the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and it “sort of took” according to Harris.

“On that day, you wear red. All the communities around are supporting it by putting on an event so it just has really blossomed from there,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the issue isn’t going away.”

The website, Aboriginal Alert, posts a current list of 93 missing Indigenous people in Canada.

Harris says Red Dress Day is bringing a lot more awareness to the issue.

“That’s kind of what it’s all about,” she said.

Police began their search of the Saskatoon landfill last Wednesday as part of their investigation into the 2020 disappearance of Mackenzie Lee Trottier.

The search is scheduled to last as long as 33 days.

Harris says these landfill searches are controversial but she noted, “You can’t put a price on a life. We need to find these remains. 

“I know if it was my loved one I would want it to happen.” 

Lloydminster Metis, Mayme Boyer who made her own red dress, thinks awareness is a big thing and says having a special day for it is very meaningful.

“It means a lot to know there are so many women out there who have been lost and displaced and abused and have no voice. So, as we participate in this, we try to be their voice,” said Boyer. 

“This is my first walk and I’ve really been preparing for this because it’s just meant a lot.”

Boyer says she found her culture during COVID and found time to go on YouTube to learn to sew, make beads, and moccasins and find herself. 

Red Dress Day is also a reflective time for Michael Collins, manager of Northwest Career Centres Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology who has had some of his family members go missing.

“It’s very near and dear to my heart,” he said about the day and coping with the loss.

“I guess just like any other loss of a family; you’ve just got to deal with it, do your best, and take those breaths those people can’t.”

“It’s nice there is awareness now it is starting to hit the news and be part of the day-to-day.”

Collins runs a career centre in Lloyd and one in North Battleford where his job coach, Krista Fox is a big advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Her 14-year-old grandson was murdered in Saskatoon in 2020.

“She’s headed to Winnipeg next week for a red dress event there,” said Collins.

Fox plans to join dozens of protestors who have blocked the main road of a landfill north of Winnipeg where some believe the remains of some Indigenous women could be found.