The director of a Calgary women’s shelter is encouraged by the support shown at a Red Dress Day event in Calgary on Tuesday.
The event was held to raise awareness about the national issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Held at Calgary’s Central Library, attendees met with staff from the Awo Taan Healing Lodge shelter, and also had the opportunity to create a small felt doll wearing a red dress.
Each red dress represents a missing or murdered woman or girl.
“It is to create awareness, dialogue and to decrease the stigma around the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” Awo Taan’s executive director Josie Nepinak said.
“Because quite often there are thoughts that Indigenous women are high risk or that they put themselves into that situation. That is not the case.
“In many cases, it is simply about people who are doing their daily activities and they may be targeted simply because they are Indigenous.”
People from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds came together at the library to create the dolls.
“The response has been amazing. Folks in Calgary are truly, truly amazing folks,” Nepinak said. “When they are aware of an issue, they step forward and they want to be part of creating the solutions. And for that, we appreciate everyone today who has come forward.”
The red dress has become associated with the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls after a Manitoba artist created the REDdress Project.
“It came from an art installation by a young Indigenous woman out of Winnipeg who wanted to create awareness by hanging empty red dresses,” Nepinak said.
“It just picked up momentum and the red dress became symbolic of the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.”
The dolls created at Tuesday’s red dress event will be displayed at Calgary Public Library branches in February 2020.