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Red dresses stand in for missing indigenous women in new exhibit coming to D.C.

Red dresses stand in for missing indigenous women in new exhibit coming to D.C.
"The REDress Project" installed in 2011. (Suzanne Morisette)

Metis artist Jamie Black of Winnipeg, Canada, uses red dresses in her work to represent missing or murdered indigenous women. For the first time, her artwork will travel to the U.S. outside the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

The REDress Project” will be displayed Friday until March 31 in honor of Women’s History Month. The dresses, which will be displayed along the museum’s river walk, have been donated and installed previously at several Canadian sites since 2011.

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Black’s artwork aims to focus attention on missing women in Canada, but “this issue transcends borders and affects indigenous women throughout the Americas,” deputy director Machel Monenerkit said in press materials.

"The REDress Project" at a prior installation in Canada.
"The REDress Project" at a prior installation in Canada. (Sheila Spence)

More than half of Native American women have encountered sexual and domestic violence at some point in their lives, the Associated Press reported last year.

The number of missing person cases for Native American women is high in proportion to their numbers in the population. Experts quoted in the story said these women had been victimized because the legal system failed to protect them.

Black and other artists and activists will participate in a symposium called “Safety for Our Sisters: Ending Violence Against Native Women” from 2:30 to 5 p.m. March 21 at the museum. Admission is free.

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