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Red Dress for MMIW awareness

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May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

With the provincial proclamation of Missing Persons Week in Saskatchewan from May 1st to 7th, and as well the RCMP rolling out Project Home as they highlight details on 133 long-term missing persons, local proponents are sharing on activities that are planned including the invitation to hang a red dress or garment at homes and businesses on Thursday.

Janet Trottier with Heart of Treaty Six Reconciliation explains that when advocates started to raise awareness they chose to highlight women for a particular reason.

“They used women because it signifies all the people that you are mentioning. So when you say persons. Those persons meaning boys, men, LGBTQ, Two-Spirited as referred to by Indigenous people; but it encompasses all of those, because without women, we would not have men or boys. We would not have families if it wasn’t for the women who give birth.”

Red dress making activities have been ongoing at the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre. As well, other events planned for Thursday are a pipe ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Native Friendship Centre, a Memorial Walk from City Hall between noon and 1 p.m., then back to the centre for tea. The day concludes with a gathering at City Hall at 7 p.m. that will have singing and guest speakers.

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The use of a red dress dates back to 2010 when Métis artist Jamie Black installed the hanging garment to raises awareness to the growing number of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The colour red was chosen as it is the colour that the spirits see. Black sees it as a way of calling the spirits of the women back and giving their families a voice.

Trottier has a brother who has been missing for 27-years. She understands the desire to include everyone who is missing, but the issue for her goes beyond inclusion.

“I get it that people want to be inclusive and want to include everybody, but when we think about it, the whole thing behind MMIW is representative of women and what they bring to Earth and that is life, right.”

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which concluded in June 2019  saw nearly 2400 people participate.

The Assembly of First Nations states on their website that “Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims, and 11 per cent of missing women, even though Indigenous people make up 4.3 per cent of the population of Canada.”

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