May 5th REDress Project display a visual reminder of lost Indigenous Lives
Red dresses on display outdoors. Five hundred of them. The colour of blood, anger, spirituality, and love. One for each woman lost. Each a reminder of racialization and sexualized violence against Indigenous women. All one artist’s aesthetic response over 10 years ago, to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. Each a part of the The REDress Project, now honoured annually on May 5th.
“Red Dress Day was first created by Métis artist Jamie Black…and is now observed every May 5th, constantly growing and spreading awareness of a deeply troubling inequity,” noted Andrew Deman, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of English at St. Jerome’s University and the University of Waterloo. With the support of the University’s leadership and the University of Waterloo’s Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion office’s Indigenous Initiatives, Deman and his family launched the first Red Dress display at St. Jerome’s University last year. For the Deman family it is personal.
Deman’s wife and two daughters are Métis. Connecting his children with their cultural heritage has been what he described as “difficult parenting”, given the tradition of violence and inequity associated with the historic treatment of Indigenous women. Both he and his wife hope that through awareness it will help their children to understand the history and also to move forward. Deman is encouraged that leadership at St. Jerome’s has been supportive of participation in the REDress initiative and forthright in its commitment to this visual reminder of the gospel values of love, truth, and justice.
“The empty dresses symbolize the profound absence of these women and girls from the lives and from the communities of those who loved them,” stated Deman, “and remind us of all of the many ways by which Indigenous women and girls are subjected to significantly higher rates of violence, abduction, and murder than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”
The Deman family installation of red dresses will be in St. Jerome’s University’s Alumni Court, located in the centre of the campus. Faculty, Contract Academic Staff, and staff members are invited to join the Deman family, by bringing in red dresses to include in the display.
“Artist Jamie Black’s partnership with the University of Winnipeg launched The REDress Project in outdoor public places where the red dresses could not be ignored,” stated St. Jerome’s University’s President and Vice Chancellor, Peter Meehan. “Reconciliation is about facing historical truths with compassion, respect, and understanding. This is just one way to honour both Black’s intent and the important message that these red dresses convey about the work still to be done.”
Learn more about Jaime Black and The REDress Project here.
Learn more on social media using the following links: #RedDressProject #MMIW, #MMIWG, #MMIWG2S, and #NoMoreStolenSisters
Indigenous women are victims of murder more than 10 times the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In Canada, the government’s National Inquiry found similar horrifying statistics, including that Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be murdered by serial killers than non-Indigenous women.
“The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and Girls” is an event designated by a congressional resolution in the United States. It was first drafted in 2013 in memory of the life of Hanna Harris, a member of Northern Cheyenne, who was murdered. It was introduced formally in July 2016 and is commemorated internationally in different ways to raise awareness about the global and ongoing femicide. In Canada, May 5th is becoming known as "Red Dress Day."