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Red Dress Display to recognize Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Awareness Day May 5

| Judy Berthiaume

Photo caption: The Inter-Tribal Student Council is collecting red dresses to use in its Red Dress Display, a project inspired by an international effort to raise awareness about the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women. The project will be displayed on the campus mall May 5. (Photo by Ted McGrath; REDress Project, Canadian Museum of Human Rights.)

The Inter-Tribal Student Council at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host events May 5 and May 6 in recognition of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Awareness Day.

This spring, the student organization has been collecting red dresses, which it will use to create its Red Dress Display, a project inspired by an international effort to raise awareness about the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The Inter-Tribal Student Council’s Red Dress Display will be on the UW-Eau Claire’s campus mall from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on May 5. In the event of inclement weather, the display will be moved into Davies Center.

The Red Dress Display is intended to bring attention to the issue of missing or murdered women across the United States and Canada. Similar projects have been installed in public spaces as a visual reminder of the large number of Indigenous women who are murdered or missing.

“The murder and disappearance of Indigenous women has been a crisis affecting Indigenous communities since the colonization of this continent and others around the world,” says Maggie Jensen, an associate student services coordinator in UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs. “The students in the Inter-Tribal Student Council have been passionate about raising awareness about this crisis for a while. It is important to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women because these cases often fall through the cracks, go unheard and often are ignored by media outlets.”

A virtual discussion — part of the "Centering Native Voices" series — will begin at 6 p.m. May 6. Kristin Welch, who describes herself as Menomonee, Irish, German and is of the Marten Clan, will lead the talk, titled “MMIW: Uplifting Matriarchy, Building Power and Collaboratives of Support.” Welch is the founder and executive director of the Waking Women Healing Institute.

Homicide is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women between the ages of 10-24 and the fifth leading cause of death for women between the ages of 25-34, Jensen says of the importance of bringing more attention to the issue.

“We need to raise awareness because these women are important, they deserve to be remembered, found and their families need closure,” Jensen says. “The perpetrators of these crimes also need to be brought to justice. ITSC intends to make the issue more visible in our community, which helps educate the public and creates a conversation that needs to result in action.

“Hopefully, more awareness among the public about the issue will lead to more calls for law enforcement and government agencies to invest more time and resources into addressing and preventing the ongoing crisis, while also working more closely with and better supporting tribal nations.”

Dresses collected this spring for the UW-Eau Claire project will be kept for use in future red dress displays.

For more information about the May 5 and May 6 events, contact Maggie Jensen at jensemar@uwec.edu.