'We’ll never give up': family members honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Hundreds of people came together in downtown Edmonton and across the country on Thursday to honour, and speak the names of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

It’s National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, more commonly known as Red Dress Day. The empty red dresses symbolize those who have been lost.

“In our culture, we believe that spirits use red, so today we are hoping that our spirits see us, and let us honour them and see them, and know we’re walking with them,” said Samantha Meng. “Our hope is that they’re also walking alongside us as well.”

Meng is a member of the Red Ribbon Skirt Project. The group, along with members of the community, gathered at the Edmonton Public Library every Saturday in April and sewed more than 100 red ribbon skirts to gift to family members of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“We’re honouring the families, we’re making sure that these voices are heard and these people aren’t forgotten. There’s not enough conversation about it, so it’s super important to be keeping it alive,” she said.

Mary Louise Cardinal is one of those family members. Her niece Audrey Beaver has been missing since August of 2020.

“I think that’s the worst, is not knowing. Not knowing where she is,” she said.

“We’ll never give up until we find her. Maybe she’s not on earth with us, but in spirit, she will always be with us. Because that’s what these skirts represent, spirits, spirits of our missing families.”

Kelly Alook also came to the march to honour a family member. Her brother Terence has been missing since October 2016.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. You don’t know if they’re okay, or if they’re hungry, cold, or if they’re just somewhere, it’s just really hard.”

But gathering with so many others to speak the names of their loved ones is also a positive experience Alook says.

“It feels awesome to be able to put our voices out there because we’re not the only ones. There’s a lot of people who are going through what we’re going through.”

“It’s like we’re actually getting to make a difference being here.”

Despite the unimaginable losses that have brought members of this community together, organizer Judith Gale agrees that the day is one of love and celebration.

“No matter what we’ve gone through, we have love in buckets to share with everybody, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”

“This is our day to say, ‘No matter what has been done to us, we’re still here, and we’re still going to rise, because that’s what we are as Indigenous people, we’re resilient.’” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb.