THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The Animikii Wiikwedong-Deweigan drum group are bringing awarenes to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
A booth was set up at Intercity Shopping Centre on April 30 in the promotion court, with drummers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in an effort to bring awareness to honour the lives of all victims, survivors and loved ones that have been impacted by ongoing violence.
Free red dress pins were given out to the shoppers to help honour more than 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“The Red Dress project was created by a Metis artist, Jamie Black, to help focus on the issue and those that have been lost to violence,” said Thunder Bay Police Const. Sharlene Bourdeau, adding that they would hold a raffle for a ribbon skirt that was created by a Cochrane seamstress.
May 5 is National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited Awareness Day and throughout the first week of May, Freddy Brizzi, manager of Lot 88, is ensuring that dine-in customers receive a red dress sugar cookie when their bill is presented.
Each cookie, which was made by Cakes By Sandy, is individually wrapped and left at the table with an information card attached. It is another effort to raise awareness on this issue.
“It’s really important for more awareness around this and since we have a large Indigenous community in Thunder Bay, I think the awareness should be out there,” Brizzi said.
“We’re not asking for any money. We’re just putting out awareness at the restaurant. Also, on May 5, we’re asking people to wear a red shirt or a red dress or put a red dress in their window to show support. Ladies wearing a red dress who come to dine here on the evening of May 5 will receive 10 per cent off their bill.”
A vigil will also take place at city hall on the evening of May 5 at 9:15 p.m.
Brizzi’s engagement with awareness week for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is a way to work toward fulfilling five calls to action for justice resulting from the national inquiry. These include: To denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women and girls, to decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and the Indigenous history in your area, to develop knowledge and read the national inquiry final report, use what you have learned and some of the suggested resources to become an ally, and to help to hold governments accountable to act on the 231 calls for justice.
Bourdeau says the awareness campaign is subtle.
“We don’t want it to be in your face, red hands all over the place and stuff like that. It’s very subtle, like the cards that I’m attaching to the cookies that will be given out at Lot 88. The card will have the red handprint and briefly explains why you received this cookie with a couple of websites for more information,” she said.
Indigenous women and girls represent approximately 16 per cent of all homicides in the country. However, they only make up four per cent of the population. Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to go missing or be killed. Today there are still thousands of unsolved cases in the country.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal