REDress installation raises awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Red dresses hung around Campus Commons in an effort to remind TRU of the ongoing injustices

Red Dresses scattered the TRU campus to bring awareness to the injustices Indigenous women and girls face to this day in the 2019 demonstration. (The Omega files)

On Oct. 4, hundreds of red dresses were hung or displayed across the country in an effort to continue raising awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWAG).

Created in 2010, the REDress project by Jaime Black is a response to the thousands of MMIWAG epidemic in Canada and the United States. The purpose of the installation is to address the ongoing problem and honour those who have fallen victim to it.

The dresses “call in the energy of the women who are lost,” Black said. “People notice there is a presence in the absence.” She uses red dresses because “red is very sacred and powerful. It relates to our lifeblood and that connection between all of us.”

At TRU, the Office of Indigenous Education participated in the event by hanging numerous red dresses around the campus commons, including in front of the Brown Family House of Learning (HOL).

According to TRU, the significance of using the Campus Commons for the installation stems from the design and purpose of the area. In a press release, the university explained how Campus Commons was built to mirror the North and South Thompson Rivers that flow through Kamloops from distant corners of British Columbia, and HOL represents Indigenous and non-Indigenous people meeting and working together toward a shared goal of understanding.

Dr. Shelley Johnson, the first Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing higher education and an Associate Professor at Thompson Rivers University, believes there is a special significance to the project being carried out at TRU.

“One of Jamie Black’s first art installations occurred at TRU in 2010. Ten years later, and despite the 2019 Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into MMIWG, our sisters continue to be missing and murdered in disproportionately higher numbers than other women in Canada,” Johnson said.

“When you see the red dresses hanging from the trees in front of CAC and HOL this is a reminder to all of us in how we can bring awareness to the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and also to males, children and two-spirited people,” said Dr. Natalie Clark, Chair of the School of Social Work and Human Service at TRU.

The installation will remain on campus until the end of October.