This year, it'll be a bit of a different May than other years for the Pembina Valley Red Dress Project (PVRDP), who in the past has held Red Dress exhibits in different communities across the Pembina Valley. For the last few years, PVRDP have held travelling exhibits in a variety of communities in the region, usually in parks, where red dresses are displayed in a variety of ways, sometimes featuring the work of local students, and usually with partner organization, Genesis House. 

Rachelle Dean-Fehr, one of the women who has been working with Jaime Black to bring the project to Southern Manitoba explained the significance of May 5th. 

"May 5th is a nationally recognized day for recognizing Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and Two Spirit (MMIWG2S). This is a day where we remember the women and girls who've been lost to violence, who've been murdered, or who are currently still missing. But it's also a day that we advocate for meaningful action, to endless violence, and to bring awareness to the issue." 

Red Dress draped over a rock in Bethel Heritage Park in Winkler

She said this isn't a problem that is happening somewhere else, it's here.  

"One of the things that has really surprised us as we've been going to different communities throughout the Pembina Valley has been the number of people that have approached us to talk about their loved ones who've been murdered or gone missing. Every community that we've gone to so far, there's been somebody who's come forward this past year with some of the events that happened right here in our area, it's been horrifying. It's been really hard for people to realize that these matters, these women, these murders, they don't just happen in faraway places. It's not something that you just hear and read about, but it's happening right here where we are, and it matters."   

Rachelle Dean-Fehr with her son in Orange ShirtsRachelle Dean-Fehr and her son

Dean-Fehr said partners with the PVRDP is Genesis House and said it is the front-line organization that supports women and children, often at capacity, to give them a safe place to go and to try to start over. Fehr hopes people bring awareness to the need to make meaningful change and to advocate to government to make sure they don't forget the work that still needs to be done.  

"This weekend, we've been invited to Seeds Church in Altona. They are doing a whole service that's dedicated to Red Dress Day, and they've invited us to be in their church with their community and to share the work that we're doing with them. That was actually groundbreaking. We've never had a church ask us to come join them before so. We're really excited about that." 

They are honoured to be invited to Indian Springs School in Swan Lake to take part in the pow-wow there to remember their loved ones with the children there.   

She is concerned this day will be diluted with talk and encourages people to be vigilant in bringing awareness by having conversations with people around them to talk about this issue and not to be afraid to have some conversations that are uncomfortable. She hopes awareness moves people to action to bring meaningful change.

PV Red Dress Project in Morden 2022PV Red Dress Project in Morden 2022


Each dress in the exhibits represents a woman, child or two spirit who has been murdered or is missing in Manitoba.  

"Every time I hang up a dress, and this never goes away, no matter how many times I do it, every time I hang up a dress, I feel the woman or the girl that it represents, and I can. remember them, I can pray for them, I can remember their families. And that's what this day is all about for us. It's to remember every single one of those women with every dress, every dress represents them." 

Red Dress made by a student

This year, the displays will not be happening in the park, but Dean-Fehr implored people to talk to their local, provincial and federal representatives to make sure they don't forget the MMIWG2S and to ask them to change and to make policies that bring meaningful change.  

She also encouraged people to make a meal or bring a donation to the landfill protests, to support those asking for the women still in the landfill to be found and not to be forgotten, or to support Genesis House and the work they do like the transitional housing project.