Written by Shaneeka Forrester for RTOERO, Cree artist, mother and advocate from Brunswick House First Nation, planting roots in Simcoe County, Ontario.
Red Dress Day is a national day of awareness highlighting the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and 2 Spirit individuals across Turtle Island, also known as MMIW2S+. The day began as a project called REDress, created by Indigenous artist Jaime Black. The goal was to focus on the issues of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada and the United Stated in 2010.
Red was chosen for its cultural significance in Indigenous communities—it’s said to be the only colour that spirits can see. It also signifies our lifeblood and connection to one another as living beings. On Red Dress Day, people hang red dresses outside. Having the red dresses hanging out is a symbolic gesture of calling back the women’s spirits while showcasing the empty dress that those missing people should wear.
This national day of awareness is important to all Canadians because it helps bring awareness to some of the issues still being faced by Indigenous populations in Canada. It allows us to see the reality of the lived experience for many Indigenous women and 2 Spirit individuals today. It gives us an opportunity to learn, grow and unite to combat these atrocities. Red Dress Day is an excellent time to reignite your allyship to Indigenous communities and use your platforms to elevate Indigenous voices about their lived experiences. It’s an important time to reflect and listen to the stories being shared.
Now is an excellent time to read Soeurs volées: Enquête sur un féminicide au Canada/ Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls, Their Families, and How Canada Has Failed Indigenous Women Par/By: Emmanuelle Walter, Widia Lariviere or any other book about MMIW2S+. It’s also a great time to read books by Indigenous women that offer a unique glimpse into the Indigenous experience in North America.