Red Dress Drive begins to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women

The Red Dress Drive continues throughout the month of May to collect dresses for the campus display

Cade Fisher

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Photo by Cade Fisher

The Red Dress display is organized and put up by students here at UW-Eau Claire

The Inter-Tribal Student Council, or ITSC, is putting on their second Red Dress Drive to spread awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous girls, women and two spirits

The goal of Red Dress Drive is to collect red dresses to put up a display on May 5 to acknowledge and draw attention to the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Maddie Blong, an ITSC member and student event coordinator at OMA, has been helping to plan out this drive and other events to bring awareness to Indigenous people.

“The idea of this event is to have these red dresses serve as a presence for all of these women who have gone missing and serve as a reminder of all of these women who have fallen through the cracks,” Blong said.

The display of these dresses is planned to be on the campus mall, outside of academic buildings and even in the trees around campus, according to Blong.

ITSC and OMA accept a variety of dresses, no matter the shape or style, used to represent the diversity of people affected. They also accept dresses of any shade of red and any age to represent the range of victims, even as little as one years old.

“We did have someone ask if they could bring a prom dress and I said yes, bring a prom dress, because women will go missing the night of prom,” Blong said.

This drive and display are used to bring awareness to the missing or Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or MMIWG, in this country.

According to the Department of Justice, Indigenous women are more than 10 times as likely to be murdered compared to the national average. Murder is also the third leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds.

For comparison, according to the CDC, the leading causes of death for non-hispanic white women are heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

Savanna’s Act, an act passed into law in 2020, is a law that pushes the U.S. Department of Justice to review and develop new protocols to better report and move law enforcement to work towards solving cases of missing or murdered Indigenous people.

This act is also influenced by the number of cases that go unreported. According to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report, in 2016 a total of 5,712 cases of MMIWG were reported, but only 116 were added to the Department of Justice database.

Maggie Jensen, the Student Services Coordinator at OMA, has provided support for this event and two more planned events following the Red Dress display. These events include one at UW-Eau Claire and another located in Phoenix Park.

“We are trying to spread awareness beyond our campus bubble into Eau Claire city,” Jensen said.

Pointed out by Blong, the organizers of this event ask students and the community to be respectful of this drive and event as the display will be put up on a day of mourning for many women and families.

The drive has been going on for the past few weeks of April and will end on April 25. The dresses can be dropped off from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. any weekday at the Office of Multicultural Affairs in Centennial 1106.

For more information, these websites offer places to educate yourself more on the situation:

Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

Native Women’s Wilderness

Urban Indian Health Institute

Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women  

Fisher can be reached at [email protected]