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Red dresses honour memory of murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people

Red dresses were waving in the wind, in windows, from trees and other special places across Canada on Friday.

Friday was National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People, or Red Dress Day.

At the Field of Crosses in Calgary, people hung little red cut-outs in the shape of a dress.

It's an important symbol of Indigenous tradition, which honours the memories of missing or lost loved ones.

While it's an important day for awareness and healing, many Indigenous leaders say they want to see swift government action as well.

Siksika Nation hosted an awareness walk, around the fields in the heart of the community.

Participants wore red, and ribbon skirts in honour of their loved ones.

"(Red Dress Day is meant) to educate the Canadian society (about) who we are," said Leanne Sleigh, Siksika Nation's traditional wellness program co-ordinator. "The strength that we have in each of us."

Siksika leaders said it's important to come together like they did on Friday.

"To help those people that are affected directly by a family member that has gone missing or been murdered," said Sleigh.

"That loss," she added. "They need closure."

Several Siksika members are grieving without answers about their loved ones.

"These events bring back those moments," said Flora Royal Old Yellow Woman, whose brother Fred has been missing since June 2011. He was last seen in Kamloops, B.C.

She said gathering with the community helps with healing.

"It helps me to know that the public, the community, are with us remembering our loved ones that are still missing and not found today."

Over at Mount Royal University, red dresses were an important symbol for lives lost.

The final report into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and two-spirit people released in 2019, found that they are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other group.

Back at Siksika, leaders say they want the federal government to follow through on the 231 calls for justice – and to provide more mental health support.

"We're not done yet," said Sleigh." We're not done. We're moving forward."