May 5 is reserved for loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit (MMIWG2S) people.
It’s a day for survivors and allies to gather together to pay tribute to lives lost.
Family and other community members spent time hanging red dresses and tying red ribbons throughout Calgary.
Specific locations where lives were lost, including all four Calgary landfills, had a vibrant red dress displayed.
The dresses are meant to symbolize the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Deborah Green’s sister, 23-year-old Laney Ewenin, was left to die alone in the freezing cold in 1982. Her murder remains unsolved.
The memorial markings hang in very prominent but painful places.
“Some locations are where our loved ones were found or even parts of them,” Green said.
“You just feel the pain. As Indigenous people, we are community-minded so we feel everything together. It’s very heavy.”
Last week, Green went to the side of the road where her sister was found to hang a red dress.
“I went out to the location where my sister was found frozen to death. It was the first time I’d ever been there,” Green said.
“It was very healing and very powerful.”
Edna Howard’s daughter, 29-year-old Claudia, died from a stab wound to the chest in June 2015.
“We wanted to create awareness to our Indigenous women, including my daughter Claudia,” Howard said.
It’s been six years and the emotions are still raw.
“It’s been the worst experience of my life. When it happened, that day was having open-heart surgery without the anesthetic,” Howard said.
“There is healing after homicide and peace after the pain but it takes a lot of work.”
The hope is to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women.
After losing some of her own family members, Yvonne Henderson made it her life’s work to protect and support her community on Calgary’s streets. She works with the Bear Clan Patrol. She said it’s important for her to support this cause to mend some of the wounds.
“It’s important being a Blackfoot woman. It’s important this day is honoured,” Henderson said. “There are so many families directly affected. It’s sad we even have to have something like this.”
The Calgary event is part of a Canada-wide co-ordinated effort to honour the national day for MMIWG2S.
The gathering at the Veterans Memorial site included drumming circles and speeches from family.
The Red Dress Project started in 2010. It was created by Jaime Black as a visual reminder to address the alarming rate of MMIWG2S.