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No More Empty Dresses

Think of your grandma, mother, sister, daughter, granddaughter and reflect on how special these loved ones are to you.  What was the first memory that came to mind?  Was it sitting at the table enjoying a special meal, was it walking on the beach or in the forest, was it listening to stories of days gone by, or sitting quietly just enjoying each other’s company?

Now consider one ordinary day that your loved one left home--to go shopping, to meet a friend, to go on an adventure to another city or country and they just disappeared—they didn’t return home from shopping, they didn’t meet their friend as planned, they never arrived at their planned destination. 

What would you do?  Look for them at their favorite shopping mall, call their friends to see if anyone had seen them, check the airline to see if their flight was delayed or cancelled, reach out through social media to see if anyone has seen them.  Someone must have seen your loved one—no one just disappears!  

My family had my travel itinerary, and I would call them upon my arrival at the hotel.  Why?

You contact the authorities to report your loved one missing, expecting that they will search and you had no doubt they would be found and return home safely.  At first, it seemed like all hands were on deck, your loved one was a priority but as time went on, you heard nothing from the authorities.  it seemed like no one was even remembering your loved one.  What else can you do? How do you feel? How can you continue to live well not knowing what happened to your loved one?

Recently I travelled to a city in another province for a conference.  I landed at the airport in the evening and  I needed to take a taxi to my hotel.  As I stepped into that taxi, I noted the color of the taxi, the identity number as well as the identity of the taxi driver and placed that information into my cell phone and sent it to my family member back home.  My family had my travel itinerary, and I would call them upon my arrival at the hotel.  Why? The city I had travelled to for this Christian conference was a city well known for mistreating Indigenous people; a city well known for Indigenous women and girls disappearing and sometimes their bodies being found in the river.

Research reveals that an Indigenous woman and girl in Canada—whether  living on reserve or in an urban area, regardless of age or socio-economic status—is at least 3 times more likely to experience violence, and at least 6 times more likely to be murdered than any other woman or girl in Canada—simply because they are Indigenous. Why? 

In the midst of this loss, we see the courage and resiliency of Indigenous people

Colonization has devalued Indigenous people and dehumanized Indigenous women through unjust policies, legislation and practices through every facet of society.   Violence, poverty, loss of language, culture, teachings and traditions; paternalistic legislation displaced women from their respectful role as matriarchs and the lasting harm of residential schools are all part of picture that continues to place Indigenous women and girls at risk of others who still devalue and dehumanize Indigenous women and girls.

In the midst of this loss, we see the courage and resiliency of Indigenous people as they continue to search for their loved ones; as they advocate for change; as they do ceremony to honor their lost loved ones.  They have not given up hope even though from the time of their loss, the minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days, days turn into months, months turn into years.  

The Red Dress is an iconic symbol of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and helps to raise awareness—the empty dress represents the voices that are silenced; the unfulfilled purposes of Indigenous women lost; dreams and hopes shattered.  

The Bible provides examples of advocacy that urges us to walk together in a good way. 

Advocacy for change needs to happen and the work is too big for Indigenous people alone to carry.  The Bible provides examples of advocacy that urges us to walk together in a good way.  

(Luke 10:30-35). This advocacy is focused on providing the legal, medical, financial and other resources needed to face a crisis. 

(Deuteronomy 15:13-14). This advocacy is empowering people to be self-sufficient.  Allyship creates more space for Indigenous voices, more resources for their communities, and advocacy at all levels of personal, community, and political domains to increase awareness and demand change. 

Advocacy can take on the social structures that disadvantage certain groups. Job tells us that he not only clothed the naked, but he “broke the fangs of the wicked and made them drop their victims” (Job 29:17).

My prayer is that you will take time to meditate on the lost lives of Indigenous people; to educate yourself and to ask God what your next step should be to help end the violence against Indigenous people.

Picture provided by the author of Red Dress Vigil held on Trinity Western University Langley campus.

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