( photo -- thanks to Annette Witteman )

Red Dress Ceremony on Mayne Island  (article also appeared in Island Tides - 2015 Year End Edition, or JPG image)

Sunday, November 22, 2015


MayneIsland’s John Aitken, multi-media artist and activist, has done much to create dialogue around First Nations issues in our community, and on Sunday, November 22, we participated in a ceremony of his design. Some of John’s initiatives have included: the community reading of The Inconvenient Indian, the talking circles that followed, the celebration of the first National Aboriginal Day in the Gulf Islands in 2015. It was time for another MayneIsland happening, something visual this time. In this year of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and inspired by Jamie Black’s 2011 original art installation, John invited the community to bring red dresses to Emma and Felix Jack Park.

Under the arms of the Honouring Figure, carved by John in 2009, we met, among the empty red dresses. Only the women were missing.


Small fire

Sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco

Small smoke

Cold wind on legs and faces

Tall trees

Sky cloudy

Smell of smoke so sweet

Red dresses wait



Woman’s voice

Spirits cry out to come home

Spirits all around

In the smoke, in the smoke, on the wind, in the sky

Come home, the elders call


The trees call

Call the spirits to come home

Only respect here

Only love here

Come home



One candle, like a beacon, illuminates one red dress throughout the night.

Dawn came. Rain came. School children came to pay their respects. By noon the dresses were gone.



Amber Harvey



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