Red Dress Day: 'It's time to build up our young women,' declares Grand Chief

·3 min read

“It’s time to build up our young women,” said Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Alison Linklater at today’s Red Dress Day ceremony.

May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Timmins Native Friendship Centre is commemorating the day with ceremony and activities to build awareness and confidence in the community..

“The work that’s being done today, and being acknowledged with the Canada wide emergency, that shows true support,” said Linklater. “Instead of always being reactive, now it looks like we are becoming more proactive.”

“People want to be a part of this conversation, they want to be included in that dialogue,” said Natasha Martin, the acting director of Mushkegowuk Council’s nation rebuilding initiative. “We have enough negative things as Indigenous people, so education and awareness is so important.”

An opening prayer and banner raising started the events at 10 a.m., with around 60 people gathering in front of the Timmins Native Friendship Centre.

Nathan Naveau, who sang and drummed for the opening ceremony, said that playing at events like this is about bringing people together.

“We feel a lot of people’s energy, and when we sing these songs for the people in the circle, for those that we see and those we don’t, we sing to lift people’s spirits up, and to honor the ones we can’t see,” he said. “It’s more empowered for us as singers to support the community in that way.”

The National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and Girls, also known as Red Dress Day, honours those who have been lost to the community, as well as raising awareness and to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.

The red dresses became a symbol to represent those missing and murdered women through the work of Metis artist Jaime Black.

Today, members of the community shared their thoughts with the group, which included students from Timmins High and Vocational School, and Timmins Pride, as well as community members from many First Nations.

“When we have our ceremony it is a time for reflection and healing and this day is never easy for anybody, and I have my own personal experiences, it does make it a little bit harder,” said Mickalya Bird, the executive director of the Timmins Native Friendship Centre. “We’re here to learn from each other, and to find that balance amongst us especially as women.”

The work won’t stop after this day, and the Friendship Centre is hosting an event for the Moose Hide Campaign on May 11, to stop violence against women and children.

“That’s one thing we as men can do for these kinds of events too, to support each other and learn that protection, not just for ourselves but our community,” said Naveau.

There will be events until the closing ceremony at 3 p.m., including a self defense workshop, and cedar foot baths for elders in the community.

“Having the opportunity for the self defense course, it brings a sense of self confidence, and as a community it makes us feel more reassured that we’re leading the way,” said Bird. “And with the cedar foot baths, we do need to take care of our elders.”

Mushkegowuk Council is in the process of launching a Woman’s Council and Linklater said that step will give women in the community an amplified voice.

“It’s time for us to listen to them in how to address these issues,” said Linklater.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,