Why We Wear Red, what it means and why it is important

Models: Left to right: Joey Roo, Tanya Pellett, Sienna Peters, Jessika Fey L’Huereux, Margaret Hyslop, Kel-C Jules, Ruth Peters. In front: Nikita Eberle, photo by Kim Coltman

In Canada, May fifth represents a day of acknowledgment for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It is a day where people wear red to show their support for the cause. Why We Wear Red was initiated by Red Nation Media and Television Network, an Indigenous multi-media platform that supports Indigenous talent.  However, the Red Dress movement started in 2010 to bring awareness to the crisis Indigenous women and girls, and their communities, still face today.

Kamloops resident, Kim Coltman, has spent her life supporting Indigenous women through fashion and modelling. Her company, Fashion Speaks International, began doing events and fashion shows to bring awareness to the issue in 2015. It is also geared to support families and communities affected by the trauma of losing a loved one. On May fifth, she organized a photo shoot on Rose Hill Road.

“Indigenous women make up 4.3% of the population but represent approximately 11.3% of those missing and 16% of murdered women in Canada. I gathered seven models to represent the teachings of the seven Elders. There was a jingle dress dancer to represent the traditional ways of our people. Jingle dress references the strength of women and is a prayer dress for healing. We also had an Elder there to guide us. 

Elder, Dr. Margaret Hyslop, has lost many family members both female and male so we had a red hand print on one side of her face and a blue hand on the other.  Her presence there was both calming and inspiring.

One of our models, Joey Roo, a Simpcw Nations man, represented our Two-Spirit people who are also over represented as the missing and murdered phenomena continues. Joey has a purple hand print on his face.”

Model: Joey Roo, photo by Kim Coltman

Kim chose the location on Rose Hill Road because the old residential school, now Kamloops Indian Band offices, could be seen in the background. The truth about the schools is coming to light and she wanted to reference the generational trauma that Indigenous people have faced since colonization.

“I believe that our vulnerability to missing and murdered Indigenous women stems back to those horror chambers, to the damage done to our mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I felt it was a critical component.” 

In regards to the recent gathering, Kim claims the atmosphere was ‘oddly fun’. 

“Such a serious subject matter would make you think it would be somber, but it was more supportive and compassionate. It was a great group of people who knew they had a job to do, a message to get out. 

Jo Sarada of ‘Captured by Jo’ did some of the photography. Stephanie Saunders, a local model, fashion designer and photographer made the banner, and took care of the body paint.

Model: Margaret Hyslop, photo by Captured by Jo

“I think that because none of us have seen each other in over a year, the atmosphere was also one of joy. Despite the strong wind knocking over models and trying to drag me and our banner off, we let our eyes water and continued to push through it with laughter and dirt in our eyes. 

It was an incredible day of remembering, reconnecting, rejoicing and accomplishing what we set out to do.”