A familiar face to Fanshawe staff and students appeared on-campus once again this week as the REDress Project returned for its third year.
Throughout the week, empty red dresses were hung along F building to represent the women who are no longer here to wear them. In Canada, there are over 1,200 reported cases of murdered and missing indigenous women.
This year, students were asked to contribute to a 6-foot art project done by an Indigenous student from the college, Wyonna Bressette, from Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation. Jenna Bjornson is a residence advisor at Fanshawe and says having the REDress project at Fanshawe is an vital way to start the conversation about the issue.
“It’s important because not lot of people talk about it. It’s something that affects every single person”, “We are trying to bring awareness to it because these people matter. These sisters, these daughters, these mothers – they matter, and we need to take action and talk about it.”
Last year, the Faceless Doll Project was started, creating over 600 individual dolls. Leah Marshall has been co-leading the project with the First Nation’s Centre at Fanshawe college. She says that the school does various activities throughout the year, and each year is a little different.
“They are faceless to represent that this could be any women, and to also help students understand [because] we hear statistics, but sometimes we are unable to comprehend what that number actually means. [When] you see those individual dolls up on the panels, it helps you to understand that these are individual women that had lives, families, communities that are missing them.”
The dolls can be found framed side-by-side in T building. As the national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women continues, individuals, friends and families impacted by someone in their community or families are heard in the discussions.
Marshall says that the inquiry not only gives voices back to the survivors’ families, but it also starts conversations about its impacts on the people of the nation. “This is not just an Indigenous issue, this is a Canadian issue so we think this is very important as this is a learning environment, for all students to find out more about this and what is happening sort of outside the walls of Fanshawe.”
Bjornson says she was shocked when she found out that the MMIW epidemic is not something that everybody is aware of, “it’s just something that has always been talked about in my family”… “Not everybody knows about these issues and [it] isn’t a common dinner table conversation, so I want to make it something that is. I want to make it something that everybody wants comfortable talking about because it does need to be talked about.”
The national epidemic of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was originally brought to light by Winnipeg-based Métis artist Jaime Black in 2014. Marshall and Bjornson says they hope to encourage further conversations to take place. As the goals of the inquiry move forward, information will continue to be provided to students and staff on campus and online.