A single red dress is hung of the tree branch, never to be worn again. A group of us gather outside to place our tobacco at the base of the tree, to make our silent offering to Mother Earth. As the final beat on the drum fades away, the small group of us who have gathered to pay tribute to the missing and murdered indigenous woman begin to make our way back to our classrooms and offices at Miramichi Valley High School. It feels like such a small offering when considering more than 1000 indigenous women across Canada are missing.
The Red Dress campaign was created by Metis artist Jaime Black, to give a voice to the families who have lost a loved one. When asked why she chose the color red, Ms. Black explained that “One woman I spoke to, she’s Dakota, and she said red is the only colour that the spirits can see”.(CTV News: Reporter Karolyn Coorsh. Published October 4, 2015. To watch the full interview, please click on the following link:https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/red-dresses-honour-canada-s-missing-murdered-aboriginal-women-1.2594856 ) More information on Jaime Black’s red dress project for murdered and missing indigenous women can be found on the following site: http://www.redressproject.org/
Why is this important? This is part of our past and our present. Families still carry hope in their hearts that their wife, mother, daughter, aunt will come home. Women are still going missing across Canada.
Conversations around topics that make us uncomfortable are often difficult to have. They challenge us to dig deeper into our own understanding and beliefs, to challenge our fears and to explore beyond our comfort zone. These are valuable conversations to have with children.
Within the area of Diversity and Social Responsibility of the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework For Early Learning and Child Care ~ English, we are reminded that we are to provide children the opportunity to become responsive members of our community. As educators, we must model the actions and interactions that will encourage kindness, compassion and empathy within our youngest citizens.
Children’s understanding of feelings and emotions begins far before many of us realize. Research has suggested that toddlers as young as 12 to 18 months recognize when someone is sad and react. (https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/toddler-empathy/ )
Within their research, they found that the way the children reacted was directly related to how they observed their caregivers reacting. We are called to lead by example…what will your example be?
Want to continue the conversation within your own classroom about missing and murdered indigenous women? Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence is available through our resource lending library.