Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

An artistic project that responds to violence against Indigenous women and girls in Nelson has been vandalized.

The REDress Project, featuring red dresses hanging in trees outside city hall and also in a gallery at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, is a dual exhibit by Winnipeg Métis artist Jaime Black.

On several occasions some of the dresses have been torn down (on days with no windstorm, Garlow points out) and the explanatory sign vandalized. One of these incidents was on International Women’s Day.

“I wish I could say I was shocked and surprised,” says Touchstones museum educator Lesley Garlow. “With our Touchstones team, there’s been a bit of a disillusionment as to the progressive nature of our community.”

Garlow said Touchstones went public with news of the vandalism because “it was an opportunity to disillusion the community a little bit, to let people know that this is a serious problem, and that if we think that it doesn’t affect our communities, or that it’s something that only happens in Winnipeg or Vancouver.

“It happens here, Indigenous women are sexually assaulted here. It happens everywhere.”

Red dresses have also recently been vandalized on Vancouver Island.

But positive responses have also been left at the guest book at the museum, at the museum shop, and through messages from the local Indigenous community, Garlow says.

“It has given people a place to mourn, to celebrate, and to feel heard on these issues,” she says, adding that she heard from one person who was asked by her young daughter about the dresses as they drove by city hall.

“That is a really great conversation to have about equality and about how it’s important to value all members of society,” Garlow says, “and that when somebody goes missing, it’s important to make sure everything is done to find them.”

Garlow, who is Indigenous, says the accessibility of the exhibition in a well-travelled outdoor area lends itself to healing even in a community that often sees itself as having few Indigenous people.

There has also been great interest in the Nelson exhibit among youth, several of whom have asked about the history of Indigenous people in the area, says Garlow.

“They question how they can better interact with the local Indigenous youth. How can they connect with the Sinixt through the Colville Confederated Tribes across the border? How can they connect with the Ktunaxa?”

Garlow says the youth are hoping for a lasting memorial piece.

“They’ve been asking what happens when the dresses come down. Will the community just forget? And so the youth have suggested a large red rose garden or something like that, for the community to use as a teaching tool.”

Touchstones has planned a series of online community forums on the REDress Project, one of them already held on April 19, with two more on May 5 and May 17, and finally a Facebook Live forum with artist Black.

At the first forum, Garlow says she used the questions from the 25 participants to give context to the dresses.

“I draw a map from first contact through residential school systems and talked about the health effects that have affected Indigenous communities as a result of severe trauma and malnutrition, and those kinds of living conditions.”

She then related that to over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice and public health systems, and which led to a discussion of what reconciliation actually means and what it will take to implement the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report.

“What we know about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is that loss of land, and connection to culture through the land, is one of the most basic causes of this systemic and cultural loss,” Garlow says.

To pre-register for the forums or submit questions, email education@touchstonesnelson.ca.

Related:

Red dress exhibit outside Nelson City Hall calls for justice for Indigenous women and girls

•Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

MMIW

Just Posted

While the initial deadline for the 2021 Canadian Census has passed, there’s still time to complete it online or by mail. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Census underway across country

Local workers distributing census package to rural areas

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson speaking in the legislature Monday, May 10. (Video screen shot)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA calls for rural infrastructure renewal fund

Lorne Doerkson said central parts of rural B.C. devastated by flooding, crumbling infrastructure

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Each of the butterflies that members of the Cariboo Artist Guild pained are unique in their own way. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Butterflies symbol of ‘life and change’ for Hospice

Wooden butterflies hang in Showcase Gallery this month

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris. Questions remained Wednesday about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada, as Manitoba limited use of the shot and Ontario announced it planned to save an incoming shipment to use as second doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
Questions remain about the future of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot in Canada

More than two million Canadians have received AstraZeneca and 17 have been confirmed to have VITT

Most Read