Sacred fire, red dresses mark National Day of Action

The Timmins Native Friendship Centre is marking National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQIA people.

Firekeepers are tending a sacred fire outside the friendship centre, and community members are invited to attend and offer medicines, or to tie a red ribbon to the trees outside the centre for those who have been lost.

Jaylin Renaud, the friendship centre’s Aboriginal healing and wellness co-ordinator, said that this day works in connection with the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQIA people.

“Today is an opportunity for systems to take action,” said Renaud.

The centre is also offering teachings from Nathan Naveau and Pierre Belec for men in the community and their healing, at 2 p.m.

“We appreciate the support we have in the community to move forward,” said Renaud. “We need to make sure people know they have support.”

Red dresses, ribbons and artwork are on display, as well as a canvas with red hand prints and messages about actions that should be taken.

The red dress has been a symbol for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA people since 2011, when Métis artist Jamie Black hung red dresses to draw attention to the issue.

Since the first showing of the installation in Winnipeg in 2011, the Red Dress Project has spread across Canada and the United States.

Renaud says that this acknowledgement is necessary to take the steps forward that are needed, but more needs to be done.

For those who are unsure what kinds of actions are needed, it can start as simply as wearing red in recognition of those missing, or using hashtags like #MMIWG2S, #gonebutnotforgotten, #nomorestolensisters, or #REDdress on social media.

Creating red dress art, or hanging a dress or red ribbons on your own tree to create visibility is also recommended, as is reaching out to Indigenous organizations in your community, like the Timmins Friendship Centre.

For those who have lost someone and need help, there are supports in place, and you can call the national support line at 1-844-413-6649, or contact the Timmins Native Friendship Centre’s healing and wellness department at 705-268-6262 extension 342.

“Action needs to be taken each and every day of our lives,” says Renaud.

She also says that acknowledgement and education about these issues shouldn’t stop on May 5 or Oct. 4, and that, for those that want to learn, resources are available.

“The conversation does not have to stop here.”

Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,