The Red Shawl Campaign aims to create awareness about murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls across Canada.
Imelda Perley (Opolahsomuwehs), UNB’s Elder-in-Residence and professor for Maliseet language and Wabanaki Worldviews, was deeply moved by the Red Dress campaign during a trip to the University of Regina. Upon her return, Perley recognized that more should be done in the East Coast to address this issue, and was inspired to create the Red Shawl Campaign.
According to Margaret Kress White, assistant professor at the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre and campaign organiser, “the shawls symbolise the whole of our nation that is in a crisis and this exhibit is to bring honour to those sisters, women and girls.”
The shawl represents the protection of the female spirit. It is inspired by the aboriginal ceremony that occurs during puberty, where young girls earn a shawl symbolizing physical, emotional and spiritual protection.
The colour red is connected to the sacred colour of humanity that is used for indigenous people. Red is also reminiscent of blood and heart, which unites people.
The campaign lasts three days and there will be various events to highlight the culture of First Nations while also raising awareness to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Opening Ceremony (Tuesday, Oct. 10, 10 a.m.)
At the opening ceremony the red shawls will be placed on trees and blessed with ceremonial medicines at the Alumni Memorial building. This ritual is performed to send the spirit of hope that there will be answers for the families of victims.
“The strength that these families need has to be rooted like the trees are rooted together underneath our earth, so they are still standing strong against the storm,” said Perley.
The medicines, combined with the rituals, are focused on helping us to honour our thinking, see a new vision, listen to the cries of the families, remind us of our connection to each other, be vocal about injustice and open up our hearts for compassion.
The Ballet – Ghosts of Violence (Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m.)
The Atlantic Ballet Theatre Company had originally created an award-winning piece called Ghosts Of Violence to depict violence against all women. The Ballet Company proposed to adapt the piece of art to fit the situation of indigenous women in Canada.
Pieces of the choreography were restructured by the Ballet Company’s art director, Igor Dobrovolskiy, and Perley to incorporate indigenous culture in form of music, dance, language and clothing. The ballet will be playing at the Fredericton Playhouse.
The Academic and Activist Panel (Wednesday, Oct. 11, 1:30 p.m.)
This panel was set up so that activists who are engaged with the women in community can relay their experience and share the impact of service work in universities.
The 2017 Panelists are: Magaret Kress-White, Nancy McBain, Ramona Nicholas and Miigam’agan.
At this event, Kress-White will talk about her research with indigenous women across the country, who are reclaiming women’s knowledge and leadership.
McBain is involved in the restructuring happening in New Brunswick for the indigenous children in care.
Nicholas, an archeologist and traditional Wabanaki knowledge keeper, will elaborate on protection of the land and issues surrounding environmental and indigenous rights.
Miigam’agan, the Elder-in-Residence at STU, is involved in matrilineal culture research and will focus on women’s role in history and reclaiming women’s knowledge through language.
Film Screening: Taken (Oct. 11, 7 p.m.)
Taken is a crime series focusing on the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Lisa Meeches, the acclaimed filmmaker, will be present at the film screening to launch the episode based on Gladys Simon, an Elsipogtog First Nation woman who was murdered in New Brunswick.
The screening will be followed by a panel consisting of Lisa Meeches, Andrea Colfer (sister of Gladys), Imelda Perley and Miigam’agan.
Youth Day (Thursday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m.)
Youth day is a new event introduced to allow high school students across New Brunswick to understand the issues impacting indigenous women and girls.
Throughout the day, students will see the exhibit, meet with the elders and partake in a youth panel—where they will be able to listen to young leaders from different communities, participate in craft activities and a celebratory closing dance.
The youth panel will involve the following successful leaders: Madeleine Metallic, an athlete and linguist currently studying at McGill; Quentin Sock, a basketball player who will represent the voice of young men to talk about protection of women; Allan Sabattis-Atwin, a PhD student at UNB and member of Oromocto First Nations council; Leona Simon, who lost her aunt, Gladys Simon, in New Brunswick.
Vigil (Oct. 12, 7 p.m.) & Healing Walk (Friday, Oct. 13, 11 a.m.)
The vigil will be held in the evening as recognition of the pain and troubled thoughts that do not allow the victims’ families to sleep. The candles will symbolize light and hope in the moment of silence.
The healing walk at City Hall is a way to express our support.
“We stand up for the ones who can’t stand. We walk for the ones who can’t walk anymore,” said Perley.