Red Dress Day is a day of remembrance and solidarity with the families and communities of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2 Spirit (MMIWG2S). This day falls on May 5th every year and is a time to honor and mourn the thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and 2 Spirit people who have gone missing or have been murdered.
The issue of MMIWG2S is a national crisis in Canada and the United States. Indigenous women, girls, and 2 Spirit people are disproportionately affected by violence, with higher rates of homicide, assault, and sexual violence than non-Indigenous women. According to research conducted by the Native Women's Association of Canada, Indigenous women are almost three times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
The number of missing and murdered Indigenous women is unknown, but it is estimated that there are thousands of cases in both Canada and the United States. Indigenous women, girls, and 2 Spirit people are often targets of violence due to systemic racism and the ongoing legacy of colonialism, which has led to the dispossession of land, the marginalization of Indigenous communities, and the loss of Indigenous culture and language.
Red Dress Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of this crisis and to show solidarity with the families and communities affected by MMIWG2S. Wearing a red dress or red clothing symbolizes the blood of the missing and murdered, and is a way to show support for the families who are still seeking justice for their loved ones.
The color red has been chosen to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people for a few different reasons. In many Indigenous cultures, red is seen as the only color that spirits can see. By wearing red or using the color in other ways, it is believed that the spirits of those who have been lost can be guided home. Additionally, red is often associated with love and the life-giving force of the menstrual cycle. By wearing red on Red Dress Day, we are showing love and support for those who have been impacted by violence and also honoring the life-giving power of those who have been taken from us. Finally, red is a powerful and attention-grabbing color. By using it to draw attention to this important issue, we are reminding others that we cannot forget about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
This day is also a call to action to governments and institutions to take meaningful steps to address this crisis. Indigenous communities have long been calling for a national inquiry into MMIWG2S, and in 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released a final report with 231 calls for justice. These calls for justice include recommendations for improving the justice system, addressing poverty and homelessness, and providing support for Indigenous languages, cultures, and healing.
On Red Dress Day, we must commit to taking concrete actions to address the systemic issues that contribute to the ongoing violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2 Spirit people. This includes listening to the voices and experiences of Indigenous people, supporting Indigenous-led initiatives, and advocating for systemic change.
Red Dress Day is a reminder that we all have a role to play in addressing this crisis. We must continue to raise awareness and show solidarity with the families and communities affected by MMIWG2S, and work towards creating a future where Indigenous women, girls, and 2 Spirit people are safe and valued members of their communities.