Red dresses honour missing and murdered aboriginal women


Sheridan Indigenous Alliance members Hillary Hill, first-year Photography student (left) and Kayla Parisien, first-year Social Work student (right) raise awareness for missing and murdered aboriginal women and children at Trafalgar. (Photography by Elise Morton/ The Sheridan Sun)


You may have noticed red dresses hanging at Sheridan’s campuses this week.

This curious display is part of the first event held by a new club, the Sheridan Indigenous Alliance, during their Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Children (MMAW) Awareness Week from Feb. 8 to 12.

According to Kayla Parisien, first-year Social Work student and alliance member, each plain red dress represents a missing and murdered aboriginal woman in Canada. There will be informational booths at every campus to educate the community about the MMAW.

With the help and support from faculty, and the Aboriginal Initiatives Office at the Trafalgar campus, Sheridan’s indigenous students have taken a step towards sharing their message with the college.

“We are encouraging the students to form an indigenous alliance because I think that all the issues we’re talking about need to be addressed by the college,” said Paula Laing, a student success and transition advisor for the Aboriginal Initiatives Office. “All of the colleges really need to look at making indigenous knowledge a priority.”

According to Daimon Clarke, a Media Fundamentals student and member, the alliance has many goals, which include solidifying the presence of the First Nation, Metis and Inuit students at Sheridan. Giving them a place to be able to turn to, creating a community, celebrating their similarities and differences with their non-aboriginal peers and raising awareness of the issues they face in Canada.

“This current group is definitely not the first time in Sheridan history there have been aboriginal people at this school,” said Parisien.

“It’s a little sad that it took for however many years this school has been open for us to get together and be able to have a voice. Now we finally have the opportunity and the means to have a voice.”


At first, the members were unsure if they wanted their alliance to be a part of the Sheridan Student Union (SSU). They decided that joining would be best because they are an alliance for the students and it would allow them to have a connection and be better affiliated with the college.

Unlike the other clubs and associations at the college every member in the Sheridan Indigenous Alliance is equal and there is no hierarchy. The alliance will only have a president and vice-president when it is required by the SSU for the attendance at an important meeting.

“It feels intimidating to be the first indigenous alliance at Sheridan College because we are literally at the front of the pack and we don’t have anything to build off of,” said Clarke. “We are what new generations are going to look at and follow and that’s a big deal.”


Angel Pangowish, first-year Art Fundamentals student (left), and first-year Animation students Tara Miller (middle) and Avery Graham (right) educate students about the Red Dress and Moose Hide Campaign in Trafalgar B-wing. (Photography by Elise Morton/ The Sheridan Sun)

Over the weekend, the members were busy hanging red dresses all around the three campuses to prepare for their first event, which will occur from Monday to Wednesday.

“We are just trying to get rid of any misconceptions people may have about this issue,” said Clarke. “Like saying that aboriginal men are doing this to their own kind when there are many non-aboriginal people doing it.”

Later in the week the alliance and the Aboriginal Initiatives Office will be having its second annual drum circle at both Trafalgar and Davis Campuses.

“By holding these events it’s a good way to make people realize that we are here and harder for the college to brush off our issues,” said Clarke.

“Change can happen quickly if you want it to and the college has the ability to make it happen,” said Laing.

For more information on the Sheridan Indigenous Alliance, stop by the Aboriginal Initiatives Office in B wing at Trafalgar or email