A ceremony for Red Dress Day, honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two Spirit persons, was held in Lions Centennial Park in Ponoka on May 5.
The event was hosted by the Ponoka Jubilee Library and Wolf Creek Public Schools with help from other community partners.
Elder Burt Bull said a prayer and gave a teaching.
“It’s an awareness day and it should be continuous,” said Bull.
“From the day we are born, we want to live to an old age,” he said, adding that tragically, many lives are cut short because of the choices of others.
The gathering was about coming together to heal, he said.
“Let’s walk this journey together — of what love is, of what respect is, of honour, because it takes many humans together.”
Bull has been working within Wolf Creek Public Schools for four years.
“Reconciliation is a fancy word, but I believe it’s coming together in a good way … let’s not stop here.”
Bree Harris then sang a song with a group of young ladies.
Local Indigenous and LGTBQ2S advocate Chevi Rabbit told her story of growing up in Ponoka feeling loved and accepted, but how she learned once she left the safety of her community and family that Indigenous peoples are often hunted and exploited for being different.
Rabbit serves on several committees working with government and the RCMP on inclusion and diversity issues.
“I’ve been continuously educating Alberta for a decade, making it safe for Indigenous women and two spirit people.”
Katherine Swampy serves on the Samson Women’s Advisory.
She has personally lost two sisters who were murdered, as well as a niece. She said it becomes emotionally exhausting to speak about and for her and many others, MMIWG is not just something you just hear about on the news.
“This is something we feel and experience.”
Swampy advised anyone in the crowd who has a relative on the list of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls, to pray and think about them as she sang a song.
There was a short theatre piece, followed by a memorial walk around the park. Participants received a strip of red fabric to represent one of the over 1,200 MMIWG to tie to the fence along Highway 2A. The strips of fabric will remain in place for a week or longer.
The ceremony was completed with bannock and berries.
The event was put on with the support of McMan Family Services, the Town of Ponoka and Ponoka and Rimbey Adult Learning Centre.