Sea of red floods Esquimalt as hundreds march for Red Dress Day

Sea of red floods Esquimalt as hundreds march for Red Dress Day

On the day to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, speakers push a message towards men to protect their sisters.

Songs and drums filled the air at the Songhess First Nation reserve with hundreds walking to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited, and LGTBQ+ peoples. Red Dress Day is dedicated as a day of awareness.

Many wore the symbolic colour red on their clothing, some with red-painted handprinted across their face as a symbol of solidarity with women.

“It was great to see our people come from the nation, our allies, all the organizations, it was just a beautiful thing,” said Amy Whitney with Cedar Child and Family Services.

While walking towards the Camosun Coastal Centre, people stopped at three different locations to chant and drum as part of the healing process for a day of mourning.

“Many of our communities use song, dance to not only reaffirm who we are arem but to nurture our spirits as well,” said Bradley Dick, co-organizer of the march.

“Anytime we pick up our drum and sing, it’s medicine to our people.”

Weather conditions were not favourable for the marchers as they approached a field inside the reserve, but with warm soup and bannock in hand, many speakers shared their stories and personal accounts of their stolen sisters.

Dick says it’s a representation of Indigenous People’s resiliency.

“It’s a testament to continuity and how we’re committed to this and our women are sacred,” said Dick.

This year, the group sent out a strong message to men, calling for them to better protect women.

“Due to colonization, we’ve lost a lot of our inherent roles and responsibilities, and community and one of that is of protection,” said Dick.

“Protection isn’t just about the physical protection but it’s also about the spiritual, emotional, and mental protection.”

It’s a message that Whitney, who is also on the planning committee for the march, was proud to see her son embrace. Following speeches, a group of men led by Dick danced around women who were drumming as a sign of solidarity.

Whiteney’s son took part in the dance for the first time ever.

“This day being about our missing and murdered Indigenous women and I think a big part of it is also about our men. Teaching our men different ways for the future and helping our men be different than they have been in the past,” said Whitney.

Several people also took part in a ceremonial wreath-laying event on the waters of the reserve, which gave an opportunity for loved ones to mourn those who were taken.

“Not only is to acknowledge our loved ones lost but it’s also to acknowledge those families likely still mourning,” said Dick.

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