Hollow Water First Nation hangs red dresses to honour Jana Williams

Hollow Water First Nation is coming together to support the family of Jana Williams, 28, whose body was found last week on Alfred Avenue near the Red River in Winnipeg, by hanging red dresses in her honour and organizing a candlelight vigil.

Though Williams was raised in Winnipeg, her family is from Hollow Water. 

Williams, a mother of two girls, was pregnant when she was killed, her family said. 

Lena Bushie, a community leader in Hollow Water, said the First Nation is coming together to support them. 

“We can’t keep allowing families to suffer such great losses like this,” she said. 

“Especially Jana. Like, she was pregnant with a baby. That is so dreadful. There needs to be justice done.”

Red dresses have been used to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and call attention to the problem for years, following a project created by artist Jaime Black in Winnipeg in 2010. 

Lena Bushie says she is hanging this dress that was worn by her granddaughter. (Submitted by Lena Bushie )

Bushie says community members are hanging red dresses, ribbons or clothes — whatever they have — outside their homes to show Williams’s family that they’re not alone. She hopes it also calls attention to the fact that Indigenous women are still being murdered or going missing far too regularly.

They’re also going to hang red ribbons and clothes on bridges that are on the way to the community. 

A candlelight vigil will be held in Hollow Water First Nation this weekend, Bushie says. Community members are being asked to make red skirts for the family and help make a quilt: “We wanted so much to help the family, so that they’re not alone. The whole community is with you.”

Bushie says she will hang one of her granddaughter’s red holiday dresses.

She keeps thinking about how Williams was a mother and how her daughters will have to grow up without her. 

“So those girls were in my mind all day today, and then I really feel for them, so wholeheartedly,” she said. 

An art installment shows a woman in a red dress in Hollow Water First Nation. (Submitted by Lena Bushie )

She also worries about one of her own granddaughters, who lives in Winnipeg and is close to 18. 

“I go to bed praying each night, thinking about my granddaughter and all these women that are out there in the city,” she said. 

Winnipeg police are investigating Williams’s death as a homicide. 

The remains of Jana Williams were found near the Red River on Thursday. (Winnipeg Police Service )

On Monday, they asked anyone in the community, particularly those living or working in homeless shelters, who might have seen or talked to her in the two weeks before her body was found to come forward. 

Police are trying to piece together where she was and whom she was with in the days leading up to her death, Const. Jay Murray said at a news conference. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide unit at 204-986-6508 or submit a tip anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).