An upcoming drive-thru event in Cold Lake will honor and remember murdered and missing Indigenous women who were girls, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, cousins, and grandmothers.
The event will highlight missing Lakeland women and girls with their photos displayed on the shoulder of the road at Joe Hefner Park and on both sides of Highway 28. Each photo will have a family member standing near the photo and a symbolic red dress will be on a pole or hanging in a tree nearby.
“The numbers for missing and murdered indigenous women are continuing to rise,” Gabrielle Whiskeyjack, Grassroots Organizer of the event said. “Our sisters are being stolen, their names and faces are being forgotten. A lot of families try ways to raise awareness for them but the media is not hearing us. By having this event in Cold lake I hope to raise awareness and honor the women whose names, pictures, and families you will see as you drive by.”
The goal is to make this a traveling exhibit and for the event to get bigger and better every year Whiskeyjack says.
Chevi Rabbitt is a social human rights advocate from Edmonton, she is also a committee member with the National Pan Canadian Voice for Woman’s housing and a housing advocate.
“It’s vital that Indigenous people restore that dignity and honour back to our women, girls, and transwomen. It has become clear that current measures are not enough,” Rabbitt told Lakeland Connect. “We can no longer rely on outside organizations to protect our women, girls, and trans women. Time and time again Indigenous families have been let down by promises of protection and safety by organizations.”
Rabbitt says Indigenous communities have to create safety plans within their households and families for indigenous women girls and trans women. The red dress has come to symbolize the lives lost to violence and murder.
“The red also represents healing,” Rabbitt said. “We are healing from intergenerational trauma and many Indigenous families are currently doing their best to break intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools and a racist society. A society that continually left First Nations behind and failed to protect us. A society that often turned a blind eye when our committees were suffering. So the red dress symbolizes hope and resiliency the resilience.”
The event in Cold Lake will take place on May 5, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Joe Hefner Park and on both sides of Highway 28.