Last year, Oxygen TV aired “Murdered and Missing in Montana,” an investigative, 2-hour special led by Los Angeles prosecutor Loni Coombs, who detailed how reports are received and investigated. One movement that has come to the fore to raise public awareness is a group of individuals and organizations that employ artistic self-expression through their art to visually express a dire wake-up call nationwide.
Branded MMIW (“Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women”), a common symbol of solidarity for the movement is the red handprint painted across the mouth—“a picture worth a thousand words” that boldly represents women who have been silenced by violence. The symbol gained national attention when female competitive marathon runner, Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, ran the Boston Marathon with a red handprint painted across her mouth. MMIW is “an epidemic happening to every Indigenous community, whether that’s on the reservation, urban, or rural,” the athlete said. “Every mile, Daniel said a prayer for a different Indigenous woman or girl affected by the MMIW epidemic—26 in all,” reported Runners World magazine.
This societal travesty goes beyond being a criminal act, nor is it limited to Montana. The fact is, sex trafficking is big business, and it prevails everywhere, throughout the United States, Canada, and indeed the world. Art has been incredible in stirring public awareness—on canvas, in photography, and even outside, brick and cement walls of large buildings have become canvases upon which the images of lost women are painted. One, for example, is Main Street in Smithers, Canada, where portraits of women and girls who have gone missing along the infamous Highway of Tears are painted on the exterior of a building.
Such display of love and grief to express dark, human exploitation has been vocalized in music. Last February, composers Marie Clements and Brian Current debuted their opera, “Missing,” performed by the Anchorage Opera in Alaska. “Art is a powerful tool,” commented Reed Smith, AO’s general director.
In Boulder, Colorado, the Dairy Arts Center put on an exhibition called “Sing Our Rivers Red,” a display of 5,000 single earrings separated from a pair—each representing a current MMIWG case in North America—to “raise awareness, unite ideas, and demand action for Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit relatives who have been taken, tortured, raped, trafficked, assaulted, and murdered.”
For more information, log onto www.mmiwusa.org and learn how they provide help to families of missing and murdered Native women. You can assist with your donation to Tryon Life Community, a USA registered 501c3 nonprofit, and help give support to their “Staying Sacred Program,” which gives young woman the tools and knowledge they need to prevent such tragedies happening to them.