Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson’s REDress Project exhibit vandalized

The REDress Project brings attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women

An artistic project that responds to violence against Indigenous women and girls in Nelson has been vandalized.

The REDress Project, featuring red dresses hanging in trees outside city hall and also in a gallery at Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, is a dual exhibit by Winnipeg Métis artist Jaime Black.

On several occasions some of the dresses have been torn down (on days with no windstorm, Garlow points out) and the explanatory sign vandalized. One of these incidents was on International Women’s Day.

“I wish I could say I was shocked and surprised,” says Touchstones museum educator Lesley Garlow. “With our Touchstones team, there’s been a bit of a disillusionment as to the progressive nature of our community.”

Garlow said Touchstones went public with news of the vandalism because “it was an opportunity to disillusion the community a little bit, to let people know that this is a serious problem, and that if we think that it doesn’t affect our communities, or that it’s something that only happens in Winnipeg or Vancouver.

“It happens here, Indigenous women are sexually assaulted here. It happens everywhere.”

Red dresses have also recently been vandalized on Vancouver Island.

But positive responses have also been left at the guest book at the museum, at the museum shop, and through messages from the local Indigenous community, Garlow says.

“It has given people a place to mourn, to celebrate, and to feel heard on these issues,” she says, adding that she heard from one person who was asked by her young daughter about the dresses as they drove by city hall.

“That is a really great conversation to have about equality and about how it’s important to value all members of society,” Garlow says, “and that when somebody goes missing, it’s important to make sure everything is done to find them.”

Garlow, who is Indigenous, says the accessibility of the exhibition in a well-travelled outdoor area lends itself to healing even in a community that often sees itself as having few Indigenous people.

There has also been great interest in the Nelson exhibit among youth, several of whom have asked about the history of Indigenous people in the area, says Garlow.

“They question how they can better interact with the local Indigenous youth. How can they connect with the Sinixt through the Colville Confederated Tribes across the border? How can they connect with the Ktunaxa?”

Garlow says the youth are hoping for a lasting memorial piece.

“They’ve been asking what happens when the dresses come down. Will the community just forget? And so the youth have suggested a large red rose garden or something like that, for the community to use as a teaching tool.”

Touchstones has planned a series of online community forums on the REDress Project, one of them already held on April 19, with two more on May 5 and May 17, and finally a Facebook Live forum with artist Black.

At the first forum, Garlow says she used the questions from the 25 participants to give context to the dresses.

“I draw a map from first contact through residential school systems and talked about the health effects that have affected Indigenous communities as a result of severe trauma and malnutrition, and those kinds of living conditions.”

She then related that to over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice and public health systems, and which led to a discussion of what reconciliation actually means and what it will take to implement the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report.

“What we know about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is that loss of land, and connection to culture through the land, is one of the most basic causes of this systemic and cultural loss,” Garlow says.

To pre-register for the forums or submit questions, email education@touchstonesnelson.ca.

Related:

Red dress exhibit outside Nelson City Hall calls for justice for Indigenous women and girls

•Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five-year-old Bayne Krause poses for a photo with his mom Marianne. Bayne’s shirt reads, ‘I have Cystic Fibrosis. Help keep me healthy, please social distance.’ Photo: Laurie Tritschler
West Kootenay mom promotes awareness of cystic fibrosis

Marianne Krause wants people to know what it’s like for her five-year-old son to live with CF

The higher elevation melt is getting underway as rivers such as Mark Creek in Kimberley are running faster. Paul Rodgers file
Snow packs down just below normal in East and West Kootenay

The West Kootenay in particular had below normal precipitation in April

Police are cautioning drivers to keep a sharp eye on the road after a Fruitvale man hit and killed an elk along Highway 2A near Trail. The driver was reported to be uninjured, though the car was significantly damaged. Photo: Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Heads up for wildlife warn police after crash with elk on West Kootenay highway

The accident happened in the early morning hours of April 30

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike grounds Snowbirds plane during training in B.C.

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read