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Red Deerians mark Red Dress Day

A pair of events were held on Sunday

The names of 105 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples were read aloud at a Red Dress Day event in Red Deer.

Dozens gathered at Red Deer City Hall Park as Shining Mountains Living Community Services, alongside Home and Métis Nation of Alberta Local 492 Region 3, hosted a Red Dress Day ceremony and walk on Sunday.

"We're here to remember and recognize Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples," said Raye St. Denys, executive director of Shining Mountains.

St. Denys was one of 10 people who read out the 105 names during Sunday's event. Reading those names is an emotional experience, but "it's harder to be a parent of those Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples," said St. Denys.

"Those names are all people from Alberta. If we read the names from B.C., Saskatchewan and elsewhere, we'd be here all day," she said.

"There's a great deal of frustration knowing every year that number keeps growing ... It's also frustrating when people ask, 'Why should we bother?' These are relatives. Yes, they're someone's mother, daughter, son or brother, but they're also relatives for all of us."

Last year's Red Dress Day ceremony featured 60 names, meaning 45 names were added for this year's ceremony.

"Each of them deserve to have their identity known and their name spoken," said St. Denys.

"We make up about four per cent of the Alberta population. We make up a much greater percentage of women, girls and young men who are killed for no reason other than the colour of our skin. It's not OK. No person should have to fear when they walk out their door."

Another Red Dress Day event was held earlier in the day as well. Urban Aboriginal Voices Society, Red Feather Women, Métis Nation of Alberta Local 492 and the Red Deer Indigenous Dance Troupe partnered to present that event.

Originally starting as the REDdress art installation by Métis artist Jaime Black, Red Dress Day became a grassroots movement across Canada, according to the provincial government's website. The project was made up of 600 community-donated red dresses, which were later placed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada.

The artist chose the colour red after speaking with an Indigenous friend who told her that is the only colour spirits can see. Red dresses are used to call the spirits of missing and murdered women and girls back to their loved ones. 

The goal of the initial art installation was to speak to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women and to evoke a presence by marking absence.

Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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