Did You Just Walk by That Red Dress? - Salvation Army Canada
  • May5Wed

    Did You Just Walk by That Red Dress?

    Remembering murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. May 5, 2021 Major Karen Hoeft
    Filed Under:
    Women's Ministries

    May 5 is designated as Red Dress Day, a day to bring awareness to the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, Two-Spirit people, men and boys. Marches will be held across Turtle Island; maybe there is one in your community. #Redress #MMIWG #MMIWG2S #MMIP 

    Whenever I see a red dress my soul weeps and my heart cries out in prayer. Some people maybe don’t understand the significance of a red dress, but this has become a symbol of Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit people, boys and men who have gone missing or been murdered. I remember in 2010 when I was involved with the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba, Jaime Black presented a moving exhibit called the REDress Project. She was collecting 500 red dresses and many of them were hung in trees around Winnipeg, rather than in an art gallery. It was so powerful, the imagery of all those empty dresses, representing families who had emptiness, hurt and pain. Somehow many of us just walked on by and were oblivious to it all. 

    Photo of Major Karen Hoeft and Jody Threefingers, community ministries assistant at Edmonton Crossroads Community ChurchMajor Karen Hoeft, corps officer, Edmonton Crossroads Community Church, with Jody Threefingers, community ministries assistant
    Awareness has grown and Reclaiming Power and Place, the final report from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, was submitted to the Government of Canada in June 2019. An excerpt from the final report states, “As documented in the final report, testimony from family members and survivors of violence spoke about a surrounding context marked by multigenerational and intergenerational trauma and marginalization in the form of poverty, insecure housing or homelessness and barriers to education, employment, health care and cultural support. Experts and Knowledge Keepers spoke to specific colonial and patriarchal policies that displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance and diminished their status in society, leaving them vulnerable to violence.” 

    But still many people are unaware of the issue. The REDress Project has helped to bring awareness and over the past 11 years we have seen a grassroots movement across Turtle Island that has not remained silent, but has continued to speak out on behalf of the families of the Indigenous people who have been murdered or who are still missing. It is gaining traction and these past couple of years we have seen more and more people join in. 

    We at Edmonton Crossroads Community Church have been privileged to participate with a group of women making red ribbon skirts for any family member who wants to join in the march on May 5. What an amazing group of women who joined together to help families walk this journey. During these days, I have been reminded that this is not just an event, but it is a remembrance. This is about people. Each red dress represents someone who has not come home.

    Will you join with me on this journey of remembrance? Will you hang a red dress in front of your house? Will you remember or will you just walk on by?

    Major Karen Hoeft
    Edmonton Crossroads Community Church
    Edmonton, Alberta

    Photo: AlisonCohenRosa/Getty Images Signature

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