New Star Blogs

‘sisters fallen but not forgotten’ :: Red Dress Day


The REDress Project, established by Indigenous artist Jamie Black in 2010, draws attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence. Since 2010, May 5 is annually recognized as Red Dress Day, in memory of the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people across the country. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report, and its 231 Calls for Justice, in 2019, but today Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people remain three times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be victims of violence.

Miskwagoode, the latest collection of poetry from Anishinaabe Elder and poet, Annharte, is a book about mother loss, about “mothermiss”, about all the women “buried in common enough / cross-generational graves”. Miskwagoode (taken from the Anishinaabe for “woman wearing red,”), is Annharte, and she is Annharte’s mother, who disappeared when the poet was a girl.

The poems of this collection, while at times cheeky and playful, are shot through with the realities of despair and violence still persisting with the legacies of colonialism.

You can read ‘Boast Unanimity’ from Miskwagoode below.

Boast Unanimity


take to the streets  walk swirl spin words
.  incite rabble rouse

unwritten life manifesto re-image nation
.  step out more self-contained
.  wear a shawl over winter parka

talk swirl spin inward yet
outward confident conscious
possible defiant words declare
rebel, revolt, resolve, recollect
walk straight into dystopia

march out more self-contained
wear a ribbon skirt to match others
express compassionate solidarity
red or purple chosen colours of purpose

many red skeletons bump along back streets
make multiple paths toward crowd holding
candle lights in collective gesture to mourn
sisters fallen but not forgotten on this eve

foot after foot motion fumble feel around
awkward in shuffle step sound momentum
form outspoken unwritten life manifesto
zigzag animation an ultimatum showdown

proceed single file to women march
minus below breeze rips through crowd
red skeletal remains scramble to get closer
spirits in deference keep outside inner huddle

join hands thick mitts shield finger bone clutch
phantom fingers and toes dig in crunch together
as if it is all pavement road to navigate from ancestor
lodge while inside they did rest formal introduce
say tansi aaniin boozhoo sisters welcome back
we have work to do  maybe one grisly joke
murder she did not write only Agatha Christie
solved murder mysteries on telly every week
support this exceptional gesture of defiance

police now encircle where was presence
before criminal arrest supposed to take place
vital contact before bureaucratic damage done
now it is mere entrapment to have security
negotiations about safety must serve and protect
taste strange metaphor on tongue about to say
valentine day so boney red is suitable choice

valentine day winter evening
time being always time immemorial

find comforting grip for boney toes
dig in crunch together cannot avoid
bump in journey step over pot hole

as if it is all talk not walk to negotiate
re-image nation copy that

how many lives taken
speckled stones remain along pathways
find one it is divine to remember