NAIT honours Red Dress Day with interactive art and education

by | May 10, 2024 | News

On May 6th, NAIT students and staff gathered in South Lobby to recognize and observe “Red Dress Day,” a day of recognition for the over 1000 missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S) across Canada. Hosted by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), the event featured a collective art project as well as educational resources. Natasha Pinterics, an EDI specialist at NAIT, was inspired by Winnipeg artist, Jamie Black to use art to convey the gender, sexual and colonial violence that disproportionately affect first nation peoples in Canada. “We wanted to find a way to talk about something difficult in a way that was approachable to people … and we also wanted to do something that wasn’t just a day, because it happens 365 days a year.” 

During the event, the NAIT community decorated miniature cutouts of red dresses, which will later be assembled into a larger piece to display across campus. “The red dresses are supposed to call home the spirits of women missing and murdered,” Pinterics explained. The project is only one step towards creating awareness in the community. “I think as an institution of education we have a unique relationship to colonialism and colonial violence,  and a lot to think about in how we operate and what kind of things we perpetuate … we’ve had quite a bit of support. All institutions have a long road to go in creating a real path to equity and inclusion and actually taking responsibility, but I think this is a great step.”

Pinterics also shared about steps on the national scale from the House of Commons and Winnipeg MP Leah Gazan to establish a specialized alert system for missing Indigenous women and girls. “The bigger picture there is around how do we mobilize communities and I think that might be a great way to mobilize communities,” said Pinterics. However, Pinterics also highlighted the reactionary nature of an alert system and the need for preventative measures. “We need to be focusing as well on how do we deal with it before they go missing, and what conditions colonialism has created that allows this to happen over and over.” 

As a final call to action in the NAIT community, Pinterics encouraged students to keep leading with empathy and considering other perspectives. “Right now a lot of us feel defeated because there’s so much going on in the world that is so terrible … the thing that’s keeping me going is [asking] how can I broaden my perspective? How can I open my mind? How can I look at a reality that is different than my own?” 

“Maybe that is the call to action, is taking a step outside of our own lives with empathy.”

Latest Issue