Students at Sexsmith Secondary School are preparing to pay tribute to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On May 31st, the Indigenous Studies class will be hosting a ceremony and round dance.

Teacher Nicky Caldwell came up with the idea for the event and says it was created to honour the people who are more than just a missing person poster.

“I believe what’s gotten lost in the translation of this issue is that people forget that these are someone’s daughters, mothers, aunties, sisters and friends. The intent here is to not just bring awareness but to have somewhere in the community for people to pay tribute to those that they have lost forever.”

A memorial tree and plaque have been installed on school grounds. Friday’s event will feature speakers, a blessing, and a red dress ceremony which consists of hanging handmade red dresses, symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous women, on the newly planted tree.

Caldwell says the main goal of the event is to change the way people view these women’s lives and what happened to them.

“The idea of the whole get over it type of attitude needs to end. We need to educate people that these are women… They deserve just as much respect and consideration in the loss that anybody else would.”

Speeches will start at 1 p.m. on the school grounds with the round dance to follow at 2 p.m. It is open to the public.