Red dresses have been hung along Highway 95 to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. (Claire Palmer photo)

Columbia River Métis Society honour Red Dress day

The day raises awareness for the plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women

The Golden Métis Nation Columbia River is raising awareness and visibility for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on May 5 by hanging red dresses outside their office and along Highway 95.

The red dress has become a symbol of fallen sisters, as in Canada it’s estimated that anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 women and girls have been missing or murdered since 1980. The colour red is the only colour that the spirits of their ancestors can see, according to the Métis Society, and the red dresses are a way of asking ancestors to lead Indigenous women and girls home.

“I think the more attention that we can bring to this, the more pressure it will put on the government and others to do something, since Indigenous women are so over-represented in missing and murdered women,” said Davene Dunn of the Golden Métis Society.

“A lot of the time, these things aren’t taken seriously, if a woman goes missing, they hardly look for her, compared to other women in the population.”

For many, there may be general awareness about this issue but a lack of understanding behind the impact of these unsolved cases.

That’s why May 5 has been commemorated as a day to remember these fallen sisters, to stand in solidarity and bring greater understanding to a topic that is often neglected, with the Métis Society encouraging locals to wear red in solidarity on May 5.

Back in 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The purpose of the inquiry was to look into and facilitate hearings to explore the truth of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada from those survivors who have experienced this first hand.

The final report, released on June 3, 2019, concluded there was a high level of violence directed at First Nations women and girls, caused by state actions and inactions.

“The high level of violence is rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies,” according Marion Buller, the inquiry’s chief commissioner, in her final report.

“There is ongoing, deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide.”

According to Dunn, it’s an issue that hits close to home, even in Golden.

While she says that for the most part people are supportive, she says she was approaches by a person while she was hanging red dresses, who she alleges insinuated it was the fault of the women that they were being abducted.

“I just looked at him and said, you can’t talk to someone like that,” said Dunn.

“It’s really awful to lose so many, but it’s heartwarming that our community is behind us and we’re fortuante because the community supports us in so many things that we do.”

The Métis society works with organizations such as the local RCMP detachment and the Town, who adopted a land acknowledgment at the start of town council meetings in the last year.

The Métis Society would like to see more public outreach in the community still, in order to help make Indigenous people in the community feel safe.

Dunn also encouraged all residents to take action when needed.

“Stand up. I think everyone needs to stand up and not allow any of our people, not just Indigenous people, to be put down if they see bullying or racism in any shape or form,” she said.

“Society is a bit of a mess right now, and I think standing up is really, really important.”