Staff Login 905-991-1132 1640 Garrison Rd Fort Erie, ON L2A 5M4

Red Dress Project- A Reminder Of Loss And Hope

by Unknown | May 16, 2024

If you drove by Greater Fort Erie Secondary School from April 29 – May 6, you may have noticed red dresses hung from the trees as a somber remembrance. These dresses are a part of the REDress Project that aims to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2-Spirited Peoples (MMIWG2S). 

Métis artist Jaime Black began the REDress Project, an art installation, in 2010. Black gathered and hung hundreds of empty, red dresses to represent the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The first installation was at the University of Winnipeg in March 2011. The project gained attention, and Black soon received hundreds of donated red dresses nationwide. The REDress Project is now a permanent exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and has been exhibited in Canadian universities, and hospitals. 

The tragedy of the MMIWG2S is described as a “horrible ongoing genocide, from hundreds of years ago to today” by GFESS student, Alexis Isaacs Anishinaabe Wikwemikong Eagle Clan, Mohawk Six Nations Wolf Clan. Isaacs is a GFESS Indigenous Student Voice member and a student dedicated to educating the youth of her community. She remarks that “awareness about the cases is lacking. If we get enough people behind the issue, those in authority may start listening.” Isaacs wishes that more people knew about the tragedies present today and hopes to attract attention to the issue through the efforts of teachers, the Courage to Soar education program out of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (FENFC), and the GFESS Indigenous Student Voice Committee. 

The GFESS Indigenous Student Voice team, in collaboration with the DSBN Indigenous team, created a week-long series of events that not only honours but educates the student community on the ongoing issue of MMIWG2S. As the official REDress Day falls on a Sunday this year (May 5th), the participating students agreed to reserve the week prior (April 30th-May 6th) as a way to increase awareness. Students created live announcements and posters and designed buttons to be sold with all proceeds being donated towards the cause. Students wore red on Friday, May 3rd to symbolically remember those lost.  

Hunter Hildalgo, Mohawk, Turtle Clan, a grade eleven student on the Indigenous Voice Committee stated “The goal of this project is to represent MMIW2S (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Two-Spirit) and bring attention to the issue so it is honoured.”

Issacs commented on the fact that this “is a terrible issue that even a small town like Fort Erie has been impacted by.” She hopes to continue to fight for her community and her nation and feels this is one step in the right direction. 

Mrs. Maracle-Gerritsen, Mohawk, Bear Clan, a staff advisor for Indigenous Student Voice, discussed the value of advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people specifically in our town as she explained that “We have a significant number of Indigenous people who live and work here. Meaning that several of our students have experienced personal losses of family and friends.” This drives the project further as it hits closer to home and urges our community to unite and take a stand against the continued injustices. 

She reminds us that the goal of this project is “to honour our stolen Indigenous sisters and raise awareness about MMIWG2S so that more people can understand and advocate for systemic change. Increasing mindfulness will also help families left in the dark, struggling, without any answers or closure due to the lack of investigation into the MMIWG2S cases.” She hopes that the inequality gap will close with greater community education and understanding and that further measures will be implemented.

Aside from the impactful education and change stemming from this project, Hunter Hidalgo takes a student-based perspective when looking at the goals of this initiative. He expresses hope that following this project they can “grow the Indigenous Student Voice Committee, make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed, and educate non-Indigenous allies.” This will establish a safer and more inclusive school environment for Indigenous students and staff members.

Although there is immense value in education, Hidalgo also urges community members not to stop here, but to take it a step further by engaging in events at the FENFC and seeking out opportunities to learn, grow, and advocate. 

Alexis Issacs defines REDress Day as “a day to generate change so people will finally listen.” But this change is just the beginning.


Submitted By; Natalie Woehl, Allie Kucman, and Mackenzie Arts (GFESS Journalism Team), May 9, 2024, VOL. 5 ISSUE 18

Original Article