Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

“Sing Our Sisters Home”

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) events at Northern Michigan University

Events sponsored by NMU’s Center for Native American StudiesNMU’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program

Dates:  March 22nd - 26th, 2021

Location:  On the trail surrounding the firesite, in the forested area, North of Whitman    Hall. 

Time:  The installation is self-guided, and can be viewed any time of the day. A fire will be lit each evening, Monday through Thursday, from 7-8 pm.

Main “Singing our Sisters Home” Event:  Friday, March 26th,1 pm at the Whitman firesite with Morning Thunder

Join us Virtually


Meeting ID: 956 3614 5971
Passcode: RedDress

!!Please Note:  This forested area is, first and foremost, the home to many of our four-legged relatives, who may be sheltering newborns this time of year, so please walk softly, stay on the designated trails, and remain quiet!!


What are you seeing in the Whitman Woods?

An art installation inspired by Métis artist, Jaime Black.


What is an art “installation”?
 “Art transforms, and definitely transcends, and moves our perspectives of how we face a tragedy,”-Machel Monenerkit, Deputy Director of the Museum of the American Indian

Installations inspire viewers to more deeply view, consider, feel, and ask questions, often regarding social issues, like this installation.  Beyond offering a space of more deeply considering equity and justice, it can also provide a space for catharsis for those who have experienced violence themselves or loss of this type within their own families and communities.

Why are Red Dresses hanging from the trees?
They serve as stand-ins for the potentially thousands of Native women, girls, and Two-spirits who go missing or are murdered each year. There is no definitive tally of exact numbers due to the tangled nature of jurisprudence in and around Indian Country. Law enforcement and sometimes the general public are indifferent and resources to more fully document the fates of these women is lacking.

Why a Red Dress?
The dresses are haunting and evocative. One can easily imagine a woman who once inhabited each garment. Jaime Black is said to have chosen the color red for a variety of reasons:  because it invokes the violent nature of the atrocities occurring:  abductions, assaults, trafficking and murders. She says that red “is the color of lifeblood—it connects all of us and it is sacred but it is also an allusion to what is happening to our women.” Also, a Native friend of Black’s told her of a traditional teaching that red is the only color the spirits can see.

What Does MMIWG2S Mean?
MMIWG2S is an acronym for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirits. This movement recognizes that not only is this racialized violence, but gendered violence, mainly against feminized bodies, but also extending to men and Two-spirits whose genders do not conform to the colonial, binary gender system. 


What is some of the Important Information to Share about this Topic?
In the United States, American Indian/Alaskan Native people experience higher rates of violence than any other demographic.  Native women and girls, specifically, are disproportionately affected by the violence. For example, a 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice estimated that 84 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. There are 23 locations determined to be “hot spots” for MMIW cases, five of which are identified as being of the highest priority for intervention due to their disproportionately high rates of MMIW cases. Many of these cases are linked to hydraulic fracking across the US and seems to be a likely contributing factor in the rate of MMIW cases in nine to 16 of the identified “hot spots.” Currently in the US, despite a national movement to raise awareness to the MMIW crisis, there has yet to be any direct actions taken by the federal government. Other ‘hot spot’ areas are urban locations along highways with access to the Canadian border, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, and cities along the dreaded I-29 corridor. 

The issue of our Missing and Murdered Indiginous Women has been a crisis since colonization and is fueled by the romanticization of “Indian Girls” seen in the media, halloween costumes, and the fashion and beauty industry more recently. Homicide is the third leading cause of death among women and girls between 10 and 24 years of age, and the fifth leading cause of death among women between 25 and 34 years of age.  At a rate of more than 10 times the national average, over 80% of indigenous people have experienced violence in their lifetimes, and those of Indigenous ethnicity are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crime and at least 2 times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes than people of other races in the United States.

In 2019, Savanna’s Act was introduced to the US House and Senate, and was signed into law on October 10th, 2020. This new law seeks to address a number of issues contributing to the MMIW crisis, including:  clarifying the responsibilities of Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments and law enforcement agencies with respect to responding to cases of missing and murdered Indians; increasing coordination and communication between agencies; empowering Tribal governments with the resources and information necessary to “effectively” respond to cases; and increasing the collection of data relating to missing and murdered Indian men, women, and children. (S.227 - Savanna's Act 116th Congress (2019-2020). Unfortunately, we have seen how Federal, State, and local governments and law enforcement respond to crises in Indian Country, and seems to be yet another treaty potentially broken.


NMU MMIW Events Unpacked: Red Dress Installation 

Soon after the new director of NMU’s Center for Native American Studies (CNAS), Amber Morseau, started her position, she shared her thoughts about hosting a Red Dress Installation:

“Whitman Woods is a beautiful space. Not only is this space able to create awareness around Missing and Murdered Indiginous Women, it provides a space for healing as we sing for our Sisters to return home at our Firesite.”- Amber Morseau

Collaborating with Morseau, is Jamie Kuehnl, who teaches for both NMU’s Center for Native American Studies and NMU’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.  Jamie spoke on the topic of MMIWG2S at the Marquette Women’s March in 2019, and more recently has been inspired by her high school daughter’s (Jazzy’s) activism as well as the amazing social justice work that our youth and college students are now engaged in. She recognized the desire for this particular topic to be honored and acted on more within our local and campus community. Both her and her daughter were inspired by the Métis artist, Jaime Black’s, REDress Project in Canada and thought it could have a powerful impact here in Marquette, too. 

Additional Resources to learn more about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). Along with resources to learn what you can do to help bring awareness and Peace.

515 Lame Deer Ave. | PO Box 99 (mailing) Lame Deer, MT 59043
(406) 477-3896
Toll-Free: (855) 649-7299

Groups to Follow

  • Red Dress
  • Walking with our Sisters
  • Water Works
  • Idle No More

Movies & Documentaries

  • Finding Dawn
  • Wind River