Public urged to take part in Red Dress Day walk

·3 min read

Next week, on May 5, it’s National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People. To honour the day, there will be a Justice for MMIWG2S+ Walk that day at 5:30 p.m. at Medicine Hat College.

The Firekeepers Women’s Society, a new Indigenous women’s organization in Medicine Hat, has partnered with MHC and the Indigenous Engagement Student’s Supports Office to hold the walk. Both Medicine Hat Community Housing and Tourism Medicine Hat helped with funding and the event is being supported by Medicine Hat Police Service.

Meet outside the front doors of the college. There will be speakers, including Elder Charlie Fox who will be giving prayers, and a walk for reconciliation. The Wild Tongue Singers will be there and a round dance will follow the walk. Everyone is invited to bring a drum. Brenda Mercer, chair of the Firekeepers Women’s Society, has helped people in the community make drums so organizers are hoping there will be lots of them at the event.

Chasity Cairns, manager of Indigenous engagement and student supports at MHC and founder of the Firekeepers Women’s Society, said, “There are so many women that are still being murdered and missing and nothing is being done. (The attitude is) it’s just another Indigenous woman. We want to try to prevent that because it could easily happen here in Medicine Hat because our population is growing. We want to create that awareness in our community, but also there are many in our community who are from these places that have been impacted by missing or murdered women.”

Large posters of women will be placed around the city to create awareness.

“This is really important,” stated Mercer. “Because this is not just one day. May 5, it’s not enough, women are going missing every day of the year.”

Everyone is encouraged to come out for the walk.

“We want to make some noise,” added Cairns. “We want families and those impacted to know they are not alone and that we see them and hear them. We want people to be aware that this is happening and to educate themselves so we can prevent this from happening as a community. It’s very easy with gender-based and family violence, with all these mental health issues happening. The impact on the Indigenous people, the oppressions that we still experience today, we need people to care. That’s why we need allies to come support us because we can’t do it alone.”

Come out, bring a drum, wear red and invite one or two friends to learn more about Indigenous people. Cairns explained the issue is multi-faceted, including problems with police reporting and jurisdictions, the child welfare system and those in it aging out faster without any support once they leave. The lack of education around the issue and the fact that Indigenous communities are often underdeveloped, without adequate drinking water and other essential resources.

“They are putting girls and those who are two-spirited into vulnerable positions,” said Cairns. “Everything is interconnected. There is mental health (issues) and not enough support. We need more of our culture to support our people because that’s been lost with residential schools.”

Mercer added, “Creating these events is really important because it’s for our daughters, our kids, our grandchildren and great grandchildren. It’s for everybody.”

Email Brenda Mercer at for more information.

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News