WITH VIDEO: MMIWG2S+ Red Dress Day commemorated with inaugural events by Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

Residents gathered in Belleville May 5 to commemorate MMIWG2S+ Red Dress Day. – Ashley Foley photo

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBOQ) in Tyendinaga organized two community events for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Two-Spirit+ (MMIWG2S+) over the May 4-5 weekend, making significant strides toward honouring and raising awareness for MMIWG2S+ sisters, aunties, grandmothers, mothers, and daughters.

The first event was a First Annual Tyendinaga Walk for MMIWG2S+ on Saturday, May 4, starting at the Karonhiak’takie Sports Complex and ending at the band office. This powerful walk symbolized a gathering of strength and solidarity.

United in purpose, participants marched together to commemorate the lives lost and still missing – and demand for action and change. Following the walk, attendees gathered at the fire hall for a communal barbeque lunch, fostering community unity and reflection.

On Sunday, May 5, the MBOQ continued its commitment to remembrance and advocacy with a second event in downtown Belleville. At 6 p.m., participants marched from the Empire Theatre to Market Square, where a poignant candlelight vigil was held, illuminating the path toward healing and justice for all affected by this epidemic of violence.

Among the candles and deep, sacral drumming, Market Square filled with allies united. Circle dancing, singing, shakers and various drummers brought light and love to the dreary, rainy evening.

“To me, this day is meant to be reflective,” Martha Van Spronsen, one of the participants told Quinteist Sunday evening. “For us to share what our people have gone through and are still going through. A day to remember, to make our voices raise against the noise that tries to suppress and show that we are not standing for silence.”

“Our sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers must be found, and we must be their voices now. Niá:wen,” Van Spronsen added.

Many red dresses were hung throughout the market square, signifying lost and stolen Indigenous women and children. Laminated posters surrounded the square, detailing heartbreaking stories of local victims to MMIWG2S+.

“Let’s take the first step in positively developing a strong circle of unity. Together, we can show our strength and pride for our MMIWG. This affects everyone!”

These words were issued in a statement provided by the event organizers, emphasizing the importance of taking proactive steps toward healing and justice.

The MMIWG2S+ crisis has plagued indigenous communities across North America for decades, with alarming rates of violence, disappearances, and unresolved cases. The movement to address this crisis gained significant momentum with the inception of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada in 2016.

This inquiry, rooted in the voices and experiences of affected families and communities, sought to shed light on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit+ individuals, along with recommendations for meaningful action.

The number of Indigenous women and girls reported missing or murdered in Canada remains staggering. While precise figures fluctuate, estimates suggest that thousands of Indigenous women and girls have been victims of violence or have gone missing over the past several decades.

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