Red Dress Campaign takes to the highway

She seemed a bit surprised at her own tears as she listed those murdered and missing women who she was honouring Sunday afternoon during the Red Dress Campaign which started with a stand in at the junction of Highways 16 and 97 on Sunday afternoon.

Sandra McArthur remembers her high school chum Doreen Jack who went missing from Prince George with her entire family, including husband Ronald and children Ryan and Russell on Aug. 1, 1989. McArthur remembers Madison Scott who went missing in 2011 from the Vanderhoof area. Then as she spoke of her distant cousin Mackie Basil of Fort St. James who went missing in 2013 that's when the tears filled her eyes.

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"Where is she? She's out there," McArthur said. "This event is about bringing the awareness to these people - some of them have been missing for 29 years and we need them to come home."

McArthur said it's the overwhelming reality of it that brings the tears even after so many years.

"This event isn't just for Indigenous women but for all women," McArthur said.

The issue to fight is the perception that women are dispensable beings, she added.

Looking around at the 60 or so people who were in attendance at the highway event that began at Mr. P.G., McArthur said it felt empowering to see the support as the majority of people were holding a red dress to symbolize the vibrant life of each woman, which had now been taken away.

During the event at the highway there was a prayer and singing as everyone stood in a circle. Then in a long procession people stood along Highway 97 with dresses raised in solidarity of their fallen sisters as the Khast'an Drummers performed.

The event then moved to the Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park pavilion behind Exploration Place where organizer Tammy Meise said a few words of welcome and she and others spoke about their personal experiences that led them to the Red Dress Campaign.

During the event Kelsey Abraham and his seven-year-old daughter Bella Rain performed traditional dances.

Abraham said this event is especially important to recognize all missing and murdered women but it really brought it home as they honoured their family members who have been murdered and missing.

"My daughter is seven years old and her style of dance is one of healing - the junior girl's jingle," Abraham explained.

Abraham takes opportunities like the Prince George Red Dress Campaign to talk to Bella about her personal safety as she would like to walk home alone from school. Dad doesn't think it's a good idea.

To keep the murdered and missing women in their hearts Abraham said his daughter honours them often.

"So we say her little prayers for the murdered and missing women - not onlyIindigenous, but women in general. To me that's important," Abraham said, who was dressed in traditional First Nations dance regalia. "To always remember them we attend important events like this one and we have placed pictures of the murdered and missing women on my regalia and on Bella Rain's dress, as well. We need to keep praying for the murdered and missing women. My prayers are with my family today and all the other missing and murdered women and the families out there who need these prayers."

© Virden Empire-Advance

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