Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to be remembered through red dress display, event

A weeklong display of empty red dresses and a day of activities at Brock University will honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

The REDress Project began as an art installation by Métis artist Jaime Black at the University of Winnipeg in 2011 to signify the loss of thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGTBQQIA) people over the past 40 years to colonial violence.

Now in its fifth year at Brock, the display will see dresses hung indoors and outdoors across the University’s main campus and Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts from Monday, Feb. 13 to Friday, Feb. 17.

Brock’s Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois said it remains critical to raise awareness about violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in gender-based violence.

“We continue to disappear and be murdered across Turtle Island, and Canadian governments have done little to implement the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” she said. “We remain unsafe, so we must continue to demand justice.”

To further raise awareness, a day of activities will be held Tuesday, Feb. 14 in Brock’s Pond Inlet to honour and remember those who were impacted by colonial violence.

Taking place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the gathering will feature a traditional song from Bourgeois, art displays and workshops, where participants will learn to make beaded medicine pouches, Métis sash bookmarks, beaded red dress earrings and seal skin bracelets. While the workshops are currently full, organizers will engage additional participants as resources allow.

The event, which all are welcome to attend, will also include a traditional lunch and a talk by Vanessa Brousseau, an Inuk social media influencer and artist who has a personal connection with the REDress movement and its goals to educate and remember.

Participants are also encouraged to bring their phones and headphones to take in a new art installation called ‘Robyn’s story,’ which documents Bourgeois’ own red dress experience through original graphic art and voice recordings.

To ensure emotional support for all involved, Elders from Six Nations of the Grand River will be on hand to meet with those in attendance.

Cindy Biancaniello, Director of Brock’s Hadiyaˀdagénhahs First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre, said the day is an important opportunity for the Brock and wider community to come together and reflect on the need for change.

“We need everyone to feel welcome in a space like this, so that everyone can advocate for change,” she said. “It takes all of us to gather together and recognize the injustices that continue to take place while we commit to doing all we can to create a future where no one else must experience these horrors.”

To learn more about the REDress project and coinciding REDress events at Brock, visit the Hadiyaˀdagénhahs ExperienceBU page.

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