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LETTER: Red dresses have deeper meaning for Quesnel community

Lost members of MMIWG2+ symbolic within empty dresses
These dresses and placards form part of the Red Dress Day awareness and mourning events in Quesnel at the Missing and Murdered Women’s Memorial Monument. (Tracey Roberts photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

The staff at Quesnel Tillicum Society (QTS), along with the partner organizations that held the Red Dress Day gatherings at the Women’s Memorial, Spirit Square, and the QTS Friendship Centre, were pleased to see such a vibrant layout of Red Dress Day in the last issue of The Observer. It is obvious that a great effort was made to cover Red Dress Day gatherings.

In an attempt to honour the purpose of Red Dress Day and the history and symbolism of hanging empty red dresses, we wanted to reach out and clarify what those are.

The empty red dresses symbolize the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

The art installation that started the movement back in 2010, by Metis artist Jaime Black, and all the subsequent displays since then, are geared to that specific focus; the disproportionate number of MMIWG2+ (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit, Plus) that have been victims of violence and whose bodies have not been found and whose murders remain unsolved.

Red Dress Day is set aside to honour them, to bring public awareness to this particular issue, for friends and family to gather together to share stories of their missing or murdered loved ones, to grieve and to hope.

The significance of the dresses is that they are empty. The significance of the dresses being red has nothing to do with blood. In Indigenous culture, red is the only colour spirits can see, so by hanging the red dresses in honour of MMIWG2+, it’s a way of reuniting spirits with their loved ones, to have them close.

Thank you for your efforts and your time.

On behalf of the QTS staff,

Quesnel Tillicum Society - Native Friendship Centre

READ MORE: Seeing red in Quesnel over violence to Indigenous women

READ MORE: Red Dress Day marked in Quesnel

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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