Metis Society of Fort St. John to host first-ever Red Dress Day event

The Metis Society of Fort St. John is hosting its first-ever Red Dress Day event, highlighting local Metis and Indigenous vendors and entrepreneurs through an artisan market.

Metis Society board member Bailey Copeland says the event came to fruition after the organization’s board, elected in 2023, started discussing how to recognize the significant day.

“We decided it would be a really good idea to bring some sort of a public event to Fort St. John that brings awareness and helps move us towards reconciliation,” said Copeland.

“I hope that people will attend the event, speak to some of the vendors, maybe learn their stories, and potentially learn who they've lost because most indigenous people have lost somebody.”

Red Dress Day began as an art project by Indigenous artist Jaime Black. In 2010, Black displayed an installation at the University of Winnipeg that included red dresses symbolizing the growing number of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) nationwide.

“Just like the visual of the red dress itself, [this event] provides us with an opportunity to consider the pain and loss experienced by Indigenous people,” says Copeland.

According to Statistics Canada, 490 Indigenous women and girls were killed between 2009 and 2021. Of those who were murdered, 60 per cent were First Nations, eight per cent were Inuit, and seven per cent were Métis.

Locally, the Indigenous community can point to the disappearances of Renee Didier and Darlyn Supernant, who were last seen in Dawson Creek in 2023.

Copeland says there is the hope that more will come involved as the date draws near.

“Bead workers and individuals from Indigenous businesses will come and display their products,” said Copeland. “Several Indigenous businesses are in town, so we’re still reaching out and hoping for more sign-ups.”

The market will be available on May 5th at Festival Plaza (Fort St. John Metis Society)

She wants the event to open up conversations between the community, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, as people in Canada strive toward reconciliation.

According to Copeland, she feels that listening and sharing their stories allows non-Indigenous people to experience a bit of what Indigenous people have lost.

“Every event that we have in the public just makes our community more culturally diverse,” said Copeland.

The market will occur from noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Festival Plaza at 96th Avenue and 100th Street in Fort St. John.

Edward Hitchins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,