At William McDonald Middle School, teachers and students did their part to remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by printing their hands with red paint onto pieces of black paper.
Red Dress Day, which happened on May 5, honours the memories of those who have not returned home.
Taylor Saracuse, a Grade 6/7 teacher at the school, said that he and other teachers in the school have been taking time and doing research during social studies classes to examine what the day is about and why this is an important day, especially here in the North.
“We’re having the kids do red hand prints on black paper, which is similar to the imagery that’s used nationally for this day of commemoration and letting the kids know that there is a fact that disproportionate violence occurs towards Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited (people) in this country,” he said.
Saracuse hopes this can be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The inspiration for Red Dress Day came from artist Jaime Black. Red dresses are hung from windows and trees to represent the pain and loss felt by loved ones and survivors.
“This highlights the absence of the women that have gone missing or (who have been) murdered by having these empty hanging red dresses,” said Saracuse. “I know that the red and the handprint is kind of carried on as this symbol. The handprints represent those who are missing, as well as the silent scene of what has occurred in the past.”
Kate Powless, program support teacher at the school, said Red Dress Day is tied in with the Moose Hide Campaign, a campaign to engage men and boys in ending violence towards women and children.
“In some of our classrooms, we are doing different activities to work against gender-based violence,” she said. “It’s a combination and it’s worked really well.”
Saracuse said that after people were finished learning about the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous girls, women and two-spirited people who have been murdered or who are missing, they’re focusing now on the question of the roles that women and girls play in the community
“What are their positions of power and what are their positions of keeping the community healthy?,” he said.
To help students to have a better understanding, Saracuse will have a writing portion to let students take time to think about how to stand up and use their voice.
Saracuse believes that can give the kids an idea that they should know they are part of the solution.