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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A memorial to former Abbotsford and RCMP police officer Shinder Kirk in Cedar, B.C. Kirk died in a car accident on Cedar Road in December 2018. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Trial begins in Nanaimo for man involved in car crash that killed retired police sergeant

RCMP accident reconstructionist takes stand in trial of Conrad Nikolaus Wetten

Next week Nanaimo singer Laura Kelsey is releasing her new single A Foolish Thing and its accompanying music video. (Video still courtesy Greg Nuspel)
Nanaimo singer joined by wolf, dancers in new music video

‘A Foolish Thing’ is Laura Kelsey’s first professionally made single in seven years

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announces an app that is intended to connect children and youths with mental health and addictions services. (B.C. Government image/Flickr)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youths launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6 million to fund virtual care platform

Two semi trucks collided on the Nanaimo Parkway just north of Northfield Road on Wednesday morning, May 5. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Semi truck driver now in stable condition following this week’s crash on Nanaimo Parkway

RCMP repeat call for any dashcam footage around 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, May 5

Phone companies have the expertise to be able to address the problem of phone scams, says letter writer. (Stock photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Phone companies should crack down on scammers

It’s time for these companies to be held accountable, says letter writer

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announces an app that is intended to connect children and youths with mental health and addictions services. (B.C. Government image/Flickr)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youths launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6 million to fund virtual care platform

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read