by Paula E. Kirman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Thousands of people once again took to the streets of downtown Edmonton to mark Red Dress Day on May 5.
Also The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, Red Dress Day is intended to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, men, boys, and Two-Spirit people, while also commemorating and honouring them. The red dress, often hung on trees or other public structures, became a symbol for the movement as it is believed that the colour red is the only colour visible to spirits.
Judith Gale, who is at the helm of the Bear Clan Beaver Hills House, has been involved as a Red Dress Day lead organizer since the event began in Edmonton in 2018. Gale noted that this year there is optimism following the House of Commons unanimously adopting a motion earlier in the week for the creation of a Red Dress Alert, similar to an Amber Alert. “I’m very excited for that step in the right direction,” she said.
“Today is a day to memorialize and to recognize and to hold in our hearts our loved ones that were taken too soon. Each Indigenous person on Turtle Island knows at least 10 of our brothers and sisters who have perished. Today we commemorate each and every one of those lost souls and say they are lost but never forgotten,” explains Gale.
Escorted by members of the Bear Clan Beaver Hills House and Crazy Indians Brotherhood, the crowd spanned numerous blocks marching from Churchill Square, down Jasper Avenue to Amiskwaskahegan – Beaver Hills House Park. Along the way grandmother/grandson singing and drumming group Chubby Cree, known for appearing at many social justice events, kept the beat going with their songs performed from the back of a truck at the front of the march.
At the park, which had red dresses and ribbons hanging on trees and light poles, there was a gathering where family members had the chance to speak about their lost loved ones. In addition, there was an open clothing closet, tea and bannock, and food hampers. As is customary for the event, many participants wore red, including some with a red hand painted on their faces. The handprint symbolizes blood on the hands of Canada for missing, murdered, and exploited Indigenous peoples.
After the event, Gale expressed that she was pleased with how the day went. “The day was filled with the spirits of our missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirited, and gender diverse ancestors. Their presence was felt by all. A day of caring and sharing in community came together in a good way.”
Other organizations that supported Edmonton’s Red Dress Day included the City of Edmonton, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Northern Alberta, Unifor, the City of Edmonton, Inner City High School, John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, and the Bhartiya Cultural Society of Alberta.