Red dresses were hung from trees on Oct. 4 by volunteers from the Mamidosewin Centre to raise awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women.
This project was conceived in 2014 by Jaime Black, an artist from Winnipeg, under the name The REDress Project.
Elena Abel was inspired by what the project Black did and organized a similar experience at the college. Small cardboard notes were pinned to the dresses with a safety pin, with the hashtag #MMIW; that stands for missing and murdered indigenous women.
The red dresses were hung so that they’d raise awareness of the problem.
“It’s quite striking,” said Abel. “It gets people talking.”
The empty red dresses represent the person in the dress missing and the original project helped push the government to do a national inquiry.
The dresses were donated by campus students and teachers. A total of 13 dresses were gathered and a ceremony was later held at the center
. “Before we hung them up we had a moment of silence,” said Abel. “Where we had seven students holding the dresses around in a circle.”
The ceremony involved smudging, a typical indigenous custom that involves burning a bundle of dried herbs, and a drum song.
“It was very powerful,” said Sumaya Alibhai, a second-year student in the radio broadcasting program. “Very spiritual, they burned sage, so the room was filled with the smell, and the drum song was moving.”
Fifty people were present as the ceremony was being held.
“The students present were happy that now they know what a red dress on a tree may mean,” said Abel. “And they can help spread awareness for the problem.”
Rohahes Mitchell-Smoke, a first-year student in the indigenous cook pre-apprenticeship program, was present.
“It was emotional,” he said. “This story has been going on for years and just recently they started to recognize it.”