REDress Project

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The REDress Project at Acadia University in 2015.

The REDress Project by Jaime Black is a public art installation that was created in response to the missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) epidemic in Canada and the United States. The on-going project began in 2010 and commemorates missing and murdered indigenous women from the First Nations, Inuit, Métis (FNIM), and Native American communities by hanging empty red dresses in a range of environments.[1] The project has also inspired other artists to use red to draw attention to the issue of MMIW, and prompted the creation of Red Dress Day.


Jaime Black is Métis, an ethnic group native to parts of Canada and the United States of America, which traces their descent to both indigenous North Americans and Western European settlers. Black was working at the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art gallery in Winnipeg when she attended a conference in Germany. She heard Jo-Ann Episkenew speak about the hundreds of missing and murdered women in Canada.[2][3]

Black proposed to include a display of red dresses in a workshop at the University of Winnipeg’s Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies. Black says the image of an empty red dress hanging outside came to her whilst listening to Episkenew speak, but has since identified an influence from the book cover of Métis author Maria Campbell's novel The Book of Jessica.[3] The university agreed with Black's proposal, and helped her source the dresses.[2]

To date more than 400 dresses have been donated by women across Canada.[4] Families of missing or murdered women have contributed dresses, and attended some of the exhibitions.[3]


Art installation inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black at Seaforth Peace Park, Vancouver, Canada on the National Day for Vigils for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women 2016.

Black chose the colour red after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her red is the only colour the spirits can see. "So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community".[5] Black has also suggested red "relates to our lifeblood and that connection between all of us",[4] and that it symbolises both vitality and violence.[6]

The dresses are empty, so that they evoke the missing women who should be wearing them. Black has said: "People notice there is a presence in the absence".[4][6][7]

Whilst some installations of the dresses have been indoors, the preferred space for the installation is outdoors. When outside, the dresses interact with nature, drawing the eye of passersby and introducing them to the MMIW issue through information panels.[4] Some critics feel the installation is more powerful in natural environments,[6] but others have highlighted the impact within the urban environment in emphasising this is not purely a rural issue.[7]

Notable Installations[edit]

The installation has been exhibited in more than 31 locations around Canada, and varies based on location.[3] In 2019, it had its first exhibition in the United States of America. Notable installations include:

Influence on others[edit]

Maxida Märak and Buffy Sainte-Marie at Riddu Riđđu 2019

In 2017, 17-year-old Cree jingle dancer Tia Wood asked other dancers at the Gathering of Nations Powwow where she was serving Head Young Lady Dancer to wear red as part of a special, old-style jingle dance, which is a type of healing dance, out of respect for missing and murdered indigenous women[4] and to raise awareness of the epidemic.[13] The Red Dress Jingle Special she organised has continued to be presented at pow-wows ever since.[14]

A Mi’kmaq woman by the name of Sasha Doucette photographs pieces of red clothing in her hometown of Eskasoni.[4][15] Originally, she placed red dresses for the women and red ribbon shirts for the men at the sites where they have been murdered, but she has also started doing the same for people who have not died of violence, but whose deaths could have been otherwise prevented.[15]

In 2018, Isabella Aiukli Cornell, a member of the Choctaw Nation, chose to wear a custom-made dress[16] made by Crow designer Della Bighair-Stump of Hardin, Montana to her junior prom in order to bring attention to the systemic violence and abuse indigenous women suffer.[17][18][19] “The color red is symbolic of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s movement,” Cornell said. “The bodice was made to incorporate a little bit of the (Choctaw) tribe by adding diamonds to the design.”[18] Cornell donated her prom dress and shoes to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.[20][16][17]

Buffy Sainte-Marie has been inspired by the project to hang a single red dress up on stage at her concerts.[21] In July 2019, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tanya Tagaq, and Maxida Märak prominently displayed a single red dress on stage when they performed together at Riddu Riđđu.[22]

Associated campaigns[edit]


  1. ^ *Heitkamp, Heidi. "Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women: Resources & Information". Archived from the original on September 21, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2017. In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing Native women reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), compared to 5,712 total Native women cases reported in the United States. However, the actual number is likely much higher, as cases of missing Native women are often under-reported and the data has never been officially collected. Heidi Heitkamp Senator of North Dakota
  2. ^ a b c Ault, Alicia. "These Haunting Red Dresses Memorialize Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women". Archived from the original on June 10, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Tam, Ruth (March 23, 2019). "Can art speak the truth about violence against indigenous women?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 30, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bolen, Anne (Spring 2019). "A Place for the Taken: The REDress Project Gives a Voice to Missing Indigenous Women". National Museum of the American Indian. 20 (1). Archived from the original on July 29, 2019. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Suen, Fan-Yee (October 3, 2015). "Red dresses seek to draw attention to missing, murdered aboriginal women". CTV news. Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Jenkins, Mark (March 15, 2019). "In the galleries: Hanging garments symbolize violence against indigenous women". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Rieger, Sarah (September 30, 2015). "Red Dresses Draw Attention To Canada's Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women". Huffington Post (Canada). Archived from the original on July 30, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  8. ^ "Exhibitions". The REDress project. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Sharon Blady (May 16, 2011). "REDress Project" (PDF). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Canada: Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. pp. 2000–2001.
  10. ^ *Haines, Wendy (December 7, 2013). "Ecocentrix -A Critical Response". By Jove theatre company. Archived from the original on July 30, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  11. ^ *MacGregor, Roy (November 28, 2014). "Curating hope for a future free of fear at the Museum for Human Rights". Globe and Mail Canada. Archived from the original on February 6, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  12. ^ "The REDress Project | National Museum of the American Indian". Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  13. ^ *Pratt, Stacy (May 1, 2017). "This Cree dancer organized a red dress jingle dance to remember missing and murdered indigenous women". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on September 28, 2019. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  14. ^ "Red Dress Jingle Special – UNM KIVA's 63rd Annual Nizhoni Days Powwow". Yahoo! News. May 1, 2018. Archived from the original on September 28, 2019. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Mustain, Jeane (October 12, 2016). "Local REDress project honours missing, murdered Nova Scotians". The Signal. Archived from the original on June 10, 2021. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Petticoat for Native American Prom Dress". National Museum of American History. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  17. ^ a b "Prom". National Museum of American History. September 24, 2020. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  18. ^ a b Sears, Emma (January 9, 2021). "Prom dress promoting MMIW joins Smithsonian show". Indian Country Today. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  19. ^ KECI Staff (January 13, 2021). "Crow designer's creation on display in the Smithsonian, brings attention to MMIW Movement". KECI. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  20. ^ "Red Sequined Shoes worn with Native American Prom Dress". National Museum of American History. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  21. ^ *Levesque, Roger (September 21, 2019). "Review: Buffy Sainte-Marie is still ready to slay the world's injustice in song". Edmonton, Canada: Edmonton Journal. Archived from the original on September 27, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Utsi, Johan Ante; Gaup, Berit Solveig (July 13, 2019). "– Mirakel at det er fred i verden" [– A miracle that peace exists in the world]. NRK Sápmi (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on September 5, 2019. Retrieved October 13, 2019.

External links[edit]