Last year, on March 11, red shirts and dresses filled the Arizona House of Representatives. Activists wore the color in support of HB 2570, a bill introduced by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, to address an ongoing crisis in Arizona’s Native American communities.
That crisis, and that visual statement in response to it, is also the theme of the REDress Project, a traveling exhibition by Métis artist Jaime Black, whose work opens at the Tucson Desert Art Museum on January 10. Black, who is based in Winnipeg, Canada, began the project in 2009, collecting and displaying dresses to “call in the energy of the women who are lost.”
Honoring the many lost throughout North America, the REDress Project will be on exhibit at the Tucson Desert Art Museum.
The red of those dresses has become a symbol — and the letters MMIW the shorthand — for missing and murdered indigenous women. In Native American communities, domestic abuse, kidnapping, and other forms of violence have put many victims on difficult paths to justice, often leading nowhere.
Gaps in jurisdiction, especially when the offender isn’t a tribal member, have been one barrier. Non-tribal suspects fall under federal jurisdiction, but a shortage of federal marshals has often meant that they can continue offending with impunity. In a report published last year, the Urban Indian Health Institute found that roughly half of perpetrators in MMIW cases were non-Native. Continue reading