The first week of May is National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness week, culminating on Friday, May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Sadly this is a crisis that affects too many Indigenous communities. As part of our upcoming exhibit, we will be showing a piece by Yup’ik artist Amber Webb highlighting missing and murdered Indigenous women from Alaska.
On May 19th, join us for the opening of the nationally touring exhibit Protection: Adaptation and Resistance which centers Indigenous ways of knowing. The exhibition explores three themes: Land and Culture Protectors, Activists for Justice and Sovereignty and Resilient Futures.
As part of the exhibit visitors will be able to view “Memorial Qaspeq” a giant 12-foot qaspeq (a hooded overshirt with a large front pocket made from gut skin, animal hide, or feathered bird skin to keep the wearer warm and dry worn by Alaska Natives), made by Yup’ik artist Amber Web out of hand-stitched bedsheets. Amber adorned the garment with the portraits of over 200 Indigenous women who have been missing and murdered in Alaska since 1950. Amber makes visible the grief held within Native communities and the advocacy work happening across North America.
Amber feels that the project has its own energy and that her job is to facilitate its movement and open conversations about the root causes of violence. She says the project is about “healing myself and sparking healing for all Native women.”
“The main inspiration for the ‘Memorial Qaspeq’ was the disappearance of Val Sifsof in July of 2012 from the Granite Creek campground. She was a family friend. It was also the awareness of the pattern of deaths and disappearances that I didn’t hear people talking about, but that I’d been aware of since I was about eight years old. They are our relatives,” said Amber Webb.
Amber Webb is a Yup’ik artist/activist from Curyung/ Dillingham, Alaska. After graduating from UAA in 2013 with a BA in woven fibers and a minor in history, she worked industrial jobs while designing apparel featuring Yup’ik language in solidarity with language reclamation efforts. In 2018, she was awarded a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Project Award for a 12-ft. qaspeq to honor Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in North America. Her work visually explores the effects of colonization and the evolution and strength of Indigenous people after genocide and intergenerational trauma through portraiture and textiles. She is exploring pictorial Yup’ik storytelling to communicate contemporary stories of oppression, historic trauma, resilience, humor, changing climate, motherhood, and resistance. Amber was Choggiung Ltd. Shareholder citizen of the year, Bristol Bay Native Corporation Citizen of the year and also received the Walter Sobeleff Warrior of Light Award from Alaska Federation of Natives in 2019.
Who: Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Presents Protection: Adaptation & Resistance
What: Nationally touring exhibition, Protection: Adaptation & Resistance
When: May 19 – August 2023
Where: The Center for Native Arts and Cultures (the Center) 800 SE 10th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214
The murder rate of Native women is more than ten times the national average on some reservations. This long-standing crisis of MMIW can be attributed to the historical and intergenerational trauma caused by colonization and its ongoing effects in Indigenous communities stretching back more than 500 years, according to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC).
While the MMIW crisis has grown in awareness, there are also efforts to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Girls (MMIG), Missing and Murdered Relatives (MMIR) which is inclusive of our Trans and Two-Spirit relatives, and Missing and Murdered Men (MMIM) as well.
In response to the crisis of MMIW, grassroots actions to honor and call for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women have increasingly grown at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Many of these grassroots efforts have lifted May 5th as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. May 5th is the birthday of 21-year-old Hanna Harris (Northern Cheyenne) who went missing and was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013. Since then, Native families, advocates, and Indigenous nations have risen to challenge the silence, tolerance, and inaction in response to the crisis of MMIW.
On May 5th we wear red to call attention to our missing relatives and to bring justice to their families.
“No More Stolen Sisters” (2023) by Nick Alan and Kelsey Mata. Poster art for The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC)