Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
When a woman or girl is missing or murdered, it is a loss for a Nation, a clan, a family, and the world – this loss is never forgotten. Seven years ago, to help raise awareness about the 1,200+ missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and LGBTQ2S, Metis artist, Jaime Black, began the REDress Project. Her art installation first hung red dresses throughout Winnipeg and in doing so, inspired other communities throughout the country to do the same.
The REDress Project came to Haida Gwaii quietly through the heart and mind of Joanne Yovanovich three years ago. Yovanovich took care to hang red dresses among cedar trees at the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay in early October.
“It’s an important campaign that affects many families. This year I made signs that we attached to posts and to each piece of clothing,” she says.
Unlike other years, Yovanovich noted that no red dresses were taken this year. “When the items went missing, it hit home to me about how families feel when a woman or girl from their family is missing. I kept going back and looking for the clothing with no resolution or clue about where, who, or why someone would take the red dress,” she says.
“I hope that others and some organizations will participate in future campaigns,” Yovanovich added.
Another campaign raising awareness to the issues of violence against women is the Sisters in Spirit movement, and October 4 saw the Old Massett Health Centre hold its first vigil. The Health Centre joined over 215 communities in honouring the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and LGBTQ2S.
These campaigns which are shining light on the treatment of women is also bringing much-needed attention to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The Inquiry recently wrapped up Community Hearings in Winnipeg, Manitoba where over 150 survivors and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were heard. These historic hearings have seen many tears flow said former Commissioner Marilyn Poitras who took part in the first Community Hearings in Whitehorse, Yukon, May 2017. The second set of hearings took place in Smithers, BC, September 2017. In addition, the National Inquiry is opening a 3-day community hearing October 30 to November 1, 2017 in Membertou First Nation, Nova Scotia, again to hear from families and survivors of violence. The public hearing will be hosted at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.