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Thursday , 19 May 2022
Red Dress Day in Cold Lake, with one of several Elders and community members who spoke on the right.

“We’re here to heal”: Red Dress Day remembers MMIWG

Cold Lake and area residents, along with community members from Lac La Biche and St. Paul honoured Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Thursday at various events throughout the Lakeland.

National Red Dress Day on May 5th saw a gathering at Joe Hefner Park in Cold Lake in the afternoon with a tribute by Fawn Wood and the Kehewin Native Dance Theatre, while family members of MMIWG, residential school survivors, and local First Nations councillors shared their experiences.

It was the second year in Cold Lake they’ve hosted an event, said organizer Gabrielle Whiskeyjack.

Mayor Craig Copeland pronounces May 5th Red Dress Day in Cold Lake.
The family of Priscilla Wells, who was killed in a collision, speaks at the ceremony.

“We’re here to heal. We need to heal. And this is exactly one of the ways that we need to heal this truth before reconciliation,” Whiskeyjack told Lakeland Connect. 

“I just felt like we needed to do something. So last year, I did the drive-by installation because of COVID. It was extremely powerful and moving. And this year, with COVID restrictions over now, I got to have people here and gather once again and make a sea of red.” 

The names of local MMIWG were placed along the Millennium Trail that afternoon, while in the Aspen Room of the Best Western, 28 pictures of Cold Lake area Indigenous people were displayed, shot by Susie O’Connor of Images Studios.

Examples of the photographs taken by Images Studios.

“We’re finally taking the steps. I feel like after the 215 children were found, we always hear Indigenous in the news now. From before, we weren’t even hardly heard…So now we get to speak,” said Whiskeyjack. 

Meanwhile in St. Paul that evening, the first ever REDress Runway event was held at the Mannawanis Friendship Centre.

The REDress fashion show highlighted a different way to bring awareness to those whose lives were cut short.

In Lac La Biche, organizers held a Walk of Peace. Organizer Lisa Marie Bourque talked about specific women from the area that died or went missing, including Loretta Sinclair, Tytiana Janvier, and Nicole Frenchman.

“We need more resources, we need more people to be involved with these issues,” said Bourque, who added residents of Buffalo Lake, Beaver Lake, Kikino, and Heart Lake attended. 

“I wish more allies would come and I wish more non-Indigenous people would come because today it was about teaching. Why we wear red, what the day means, what a vulnerable person is, what intergenerational trauma is,” she said.

Red Dress Day began in 2010 by Métis artist Jaime Black, who created a project with red dresses to draw attention to MMIWG across North America.

“We’re not forgotten. We’re not gone. We’re going to be remembered. And if something happened, we will remember you,” said Whiskeyjack. 

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.