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Third annual Kjipuktuk March for MMIWG2S set for Monday

Red dresses on display at 2023 memorial

3 min read
A big glass window that takes up the whole frame. A panel divider cuts through about a third of the window to the right. On the left-hand side hangs a dark red dress with long sleeves and a cowl neck with a skirt that would go up to knee-length if worn. A bright red square placard next to it reads in white letters, "Why is there a red dress in the window?" The description is too small to see from the camera's distance. The window looks out onto Spring Street, with piles of snow on the sidewalk.
caption On Monday, red dresses honoring over 1000 missing and murdered Indigenous women will be displayed in the Public Gardens, such as the one on the first floor of the Halifax Central Library.
Sabine Antigua

Editor's Note

The start time of the event was changed to 11 a.m.

The third annual Kjipuktuk March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S) is taking place Monday.

Four First Nations women died in Winnipeg last year an alleged serial killer is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with their deaths.

Their names: Rebecca Contois; Marcedes Myran; Morgan Harris; and an unidentified woman elders have named Buffalo Woman will be added to the event’s memorial downtown.

Mi’kmaw activist and march organizer Darlene Gilbert, also known as Thunderbird Swooping Down Woman, weighs in on the history of racialized violence against Indigenous women.

“The people of Turtle Island have the right to be here and survive just like anybody else,” she said. “This march that I’ve done happens to be because I know so many people from west to east, across Turtle Island, that this issue has been so evident for.”

Kjipuktuk is the original name for Halifax in the Mi’kmaw language.

Logistics: It takes place on Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. The march begins in the city’s south end at the Peace and Friendship Park on Hollis Street.

Facts: The park was once named after Edward Cornwallis, the city’s founder. As the British governor of Nova Scotia, he ordered a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaw men, women and children, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. The park was renamed in 2021.

Strategy: Gilbert said she likes to think of it as “taking over Cornwallis’ backyard.” From the park, she then takes the march up to the Public Gardens.

“A lot of settlers go in there because they take such good care of it, you know, for their walks,” she said. “I believe that this issue should be put there in their faces.”

Peace and Friendship Park photographed at dusk. Snow covers the ground. From left to right: a set of swings, a tree-shaped Christmas light installation in the middle of the park, a concrete path that cuts diagonally through the park, street lamps wrapped in Christmas lights, a set of benches, and bare trees in the background. Behind rises a series of buildings against a grey-blue sky, one building has a smoking chimney. In the foreground, to the left, stands a signboard bearing the name of the park in English and Mi'kmaw. The sign also has the address (1770 Hollis St) and rules for park users, too small to be read at this distance.

Memorial: Traditional ceremonies will be held throughout the day. The names of missing and murdered victims will be displayed at the park by loved ones, as well as red dresses.

“The red dresses honour our women,” said Gilbert. “In tradition, the spirits only see red. They will see that we are honouring now, and that’s why the colour red is being used. It’s used for love, but we believe that the colour red is the colour that spirits see.”

Gilbert said in past years city officials took the dresses down, but added the city now works with her to ensure the memorial goes on without disturbance.

The REDress project was started by Anishinaabe and Finnish artist Jamie Black and has been adopted in memorial ceremonies across the country.

Background: A National Operational Overview on missing and murdered Indigenous women prepared by the RCMP stated that 1,017 women were murdered between 1980 and 2012 and164 more women are missing. These were only based on reported incidents.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit, finalized in 2019, was key to identifying the societal and institutional factors that lead to racialized violence and the lack of will to investigate reported cases.

Coast to coast: The Women’s Memorial March has been held annually in Vancouver since 1992 to commemorate those who have been lost, uphold community and healing, and demand justice for the victims and their families.

Gilbert said that she organized the first Kjipuktuk march in 2021 in solidarity.

The year’s march was initially scheduled for Feb. 14 and postponed due to a winter storm.

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About the author

Sabine Antigua

Sabine Antigua was born and raised in Manila, Philippines and previously lived in Sydney, Australia before pursuing the one-year Bachelor of...

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