Dozens of people donned red clothes, ribbon skirts and jingle dresses Thursday (May 5) and braved the mud and rain to gather and call attention to the continued crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
Red Dress Day honours and remembers the disproportionate number of Indigenous sisters, daughters and mothers impacted by violence and discrimination in Canada.
Gathered outside Vancouver City Hall, attendees looked on as a series of speakers and performers called for action.
Mary Point of the Musqueam Nation pointed to the many recommendations and reports that clearly outline what individuals, institutions and governments need to do. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are all solid blueprints, she said.
“…through all of those actions, it can be boiled down to one thing: We deserve safety. We deserve to be here,” Point said.
She opened the event with the Musqueam paddle song.
“It’s a song that we sing when we’re entering a new community to let people know that we’re coming with good intention,” Point explained.
Mary Point shares the Musqueam paddle song with those gathered. pic.twitter.com/WjzH29dcky— Jane Skrypnek (@janeskrypnek) May 5, 2022
In a virtual address representing the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson outlined some of the challenges Indigenous people, and especially Indigenous women, still face. She listed the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase in violence the resulting lock downs have brought, climate change, and man camps, among many others.
All of these, Wilson said, must be addressed if intergenerational healing is to occur.
She called for safe spaces, support for families and survivors of residential schools and trauma, and resources for rural communities.
Indigenous people have been on these lands since time immemorial, the speakers said.
“We came from the first sunrise and we’ll be here till the last one,” Christie Charles, Vancouver’s first Indigenous poet laureate, said.
The goal is not to lose anyone else to racism and violence along the way.