Note to students: This article uses Canadian spelling. Listen and follow along with the article. Then take the student challenge. A glossary of keywords is available at the end.
Red Dress Day, observed annually in Canada on May 5, raises awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. This date serves as a reminder of the ongoing violence and systemic issues faced by Indigenous communities.
The origin of Red Dress Day
In 2010, Jaime Black, a Métis artist from Canada, created a powerful installation of hanging empty red dresses. She called the installation the REDress Project. It was first shown at the University of Winnipeg in 2011 and has travelled throughout Canada and to Washington, DC, since then. This exhibition inspired the observance of Red Dress Day.
The US also commemorates this day, sharing the objective of raising awareness about the alarming rates of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in America.
Why a red dress?
The colour red was chosen because it represents the bloodshed and violence endured by Indigenous women throughout history while also drawing attention to the need for justice and action. By wearing red on this day, people across the country show their solidarity and support for the families affected by these tragedies.
Increasing awareness and advocacy
The primary goal of Red Dress Day is to raise public awareness about the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women through organized events, including marches and educational campaigns. The hope is that increased awareness will lead to policy changes, improved support services, and prevention initiatives.
Red Dress Day, like Orange Shirt Day, serves as a platform for healing, remembrance, and support for the families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones. Through shared grief and resilience, communities can find solace and strength while also demanding justice.
- systemic: relating to a system
- alarming: surprising (in a negative way)
- solidarity: support that shows you are in something together
- policy change: a change to a rule or law
- prevention initiative: a new idea with a goal of stopping something from happening again
- mourn: to feel and express sadness over a loss or death
- two-spirit person: an individual who embodies a blend of male and female spirits
- resilience: strength during difficult times
- solace: comfort during times of sadness
Are you a newcomer honouring a commitment to learn more about the treatment of Indigenous people? Ask your teacher to share Ellii's True Grammar Stories lesson Indigenous People: Simple Present & Past, which includes the true story of Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman from the Tla‑o‑qui‑aht First Nation, who died at the hands of police in New Brunswick, Canada. Ellii also has a Holidays & Events lesson where you can learn about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Orange Shirt Day).
Challenge: Wear red on May 5. Then ask a friend this question: Do you know why I'm wearing red today? How will you answer? Leave a comment summarizing what you will say.