Spreading awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By Jessica Dempsey

October 11, 2017 1:15 PM

Many people came out to show their support for a movement of change at the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Walk that was held at Lakeland College as part of the Sisters of Spirit Vigils. Jessica Dempsey/Meridian Booster

It was a night filled with reflection on Wednesday night at Lakeland College as they held the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Walk.

As part of Lakeland College’s four-part Reconciliation Speaker Series, the college held a Sisters in Spirit vigil which is held every Oct. 4 throughout the country.

As well, leading up to the walk, images were on loan from the REDress Photography Project, which showcased these conversation starting photos with the actual red dress. 

To see her images placed throughout the cafeteria at Lakeland College was very important for REDress Photography Project founder Mufty Mathewson.

“It’s wonderfully rewarding,” she said. “When I take the pictures and give them to people, it’s like giving my kids away, what are they going to do with them? Then I arrive and they are beautifully displayed and everybody is fascinated with them.”

The idea to dabble into photography to raise awareness came after she saw a similar photo in January of 2015.

“I was reading the newspaper one morning and saw a full-page ad with a picture of a red dress in a forest, and on that, it said ‘imagine if 1,181 of your daughters never came home and image if no one cared?’” explained Mathewson.

After seeing that photo, Mathewson said she really did care.

“But, I’m an old, privileged, white woman, what can I do?” she added.

She said that’s when she realized what she could do, use her photography skills to create a conversation to help raise awareness.

“I can take pictures like this, this beautiful picture of a red dress in a forest, I can do that. So, I started, and I started by myself. Then I included some people from camera club, and I included a young woman I had been teaching photography,” she said.

Since taking the photos in different parts of the country, Mathewson said more and more people have joined her.

“I now have more than 35 photographers who have joined this project,” she said.

Mathewson said it was important to use her skills for the cause because it shows others they can do something just as she did.

“I feel like a lot of people do care, and certainly that is what I have learned in discussing it and showing the photographs. There are a lot of people who do care, but they don’t know what to do,” she said.

The simple act of hanging a red dress and taking a photograph can make the biggest impact.

“It’s amazing the amount of education you can do while you’re doing that because people come by and they say ‘what’s this all about?’ and when you tell them it’s to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women they sober up,” said Mathewson.

As for advice, she would give to people who may be in the same situation as she was in 2015, she said to just continue to learn.

“I say educate yourselves because it’s an issue I didn’t know very much about and so I started reading books by Aboriginal people, I have a library list that’s 30 books long I have been reading ever since, and meeting people and talking to people. Finding out the stuff we don’t know,” she said.

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