Community members commemorated the second annual Mokinthisis Calgary Missing Murdered and Exploited Indigenous People (MMEIP) gathering on Thursday.
The event was organized by families and community members with support from Bear Clan Patrol. It is a local iteration of national Red Dress Day, which calls attention to disproportionate rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and two spirit people.
People gathered at the Memorial Drive Field of Crosses — renamed the Field of Ribbons for the day’s events — for a day of singing, drumming, and sharing stories.
Red dresses and ribbons were also hung at different locations in the city like the SAIT campus and Parkdale Blvd in N.W. Calgary.
Organiser Deborah Green (Gopher), pictured below, says while awareness is important, the event is primarily about “reclaiming power and place.”
The location was chosen to commemorate the life of Joey English, a young Piikani Nation woman whose remains were found in nearby Crescent Heights Park in 2016. She had died of a drug overdose and rather than contacting police, the man she was with dismembered her body and disposed of her remains.
“We’re here, number one, for the families,” said Green (Gopher).
A dress was placed on the site as a memorial for English. Organizers said they are working with the city to make it permanent.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek was also in attendance.
Alyssa Ryan is part of Stardale Women’s Group, a program that aims to empower young Indigenous women. The group performed two songs which Ryan says was difficult for some girls because of how close to home the issue is.
Green (Gopher) says she want governments and those in power to act.
“We can have all the reports and calls to action we want, but if there’s not actual accountability and taking action to move that along we’ll still be in the same boat in 10 months.”
She believes this is not just an issue for Indigenous people to tackle.
“All Canadians have a part to play in this as well.”
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