Red Dress Day is marked each year in Canada to raise awareness about the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S).
Kaitlin Phillips is the coordinator of Indigenous Health and Wellness with Indigenous Education and Engagement (IE&E) at Humber. Phillips said MMIWG2S is a deeply personal issue to Indigenous communities and affects many of Humber’s Indigenous students, faculty and staff.
“It's an issue that almost every Indigenous person has been touched by,” said Phillips.
IE&E and Humber Libraries have collaborated to observe Red Dress Day with an event on Friday, May 5.
“We partner a great deal with IE&E and feel it’s our role and everyone’s role to support initiatives around Truth and Reconciliation,” said Cynthia Mckeich, library director with Humber Libraries.
The event, which starts at 9 a.m., will begin with a keynote address by Indigenous poet Sarah Lewis followed by a drop-in book wrapping workshop in partnership with The Canadian Library to honour MMIWG2S through art. Everyone is invited to attend the event and the drop-in for the book wrapping runs from about 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“We wanted the day to be impactful and allow people who are attending to participate and learn and engage with us,” said Phillips. “We’ve made it a place to learn and share and a safe space for everyone to address a topic that can potentially be very triggering. We want it to be a day that is educational but also at the same time is respectful and mindful of everyone who has been touched by it.”
The Canadian Library has created a project to take 8,000 hard cover books and individually wrap them in Indigenous-inspired fabric. The names of the lives lost are printed in gold letters and placed on the spines of the books to respect and honour the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls, children and two-spirit people.
The textiles at the Humber event are purchased from Indigenous-owned businesses and the goal is to wrap more than 200 books. They will then be put on display on the fourth floor of the North Campus library along with more information on the project.
There will be a reflection area and sharing circle for those who want to share.
“This is a way of bringing the Humber community together to recognize and reflect on missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people,” said Aliya Dalfen, a librarian with Humber Libraries. “It’s a really difficult conversation to be had, but we think it's an incredibly important one.”
Lewis will provide the keynote. She’s an Anishnaabe Kwe spoken word artist, activist, community organizer and mother who became Peterborough’s inaugural poet laureate in 2021. Last year, she received the Rebel with a Cause award that honours women activists making a mark in Peterborough from The Elizabeth Fry Society.
She has been featured in a variety of media and has had her work published in anthologies including The Edmonton Poets Anthology, The Condor and the Eagle Meet and A Manor of Words.
Lewis says on her website that her poetry envisions a decolonial society where sexism, the patriarchy, capitalism and racism do not exist. Her poetry also highlights the resurgence of Indigenous communities and how Indigenous people are reclaiming their identities, culture, strength and sovereignty.
She expects to publish her first collection of poems this year.
Registration is encouraged but isn’t required.