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Remembering Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women

Courtesy Netha Cloeter

Indigenous women from across the country are taking part in a week-long series of events this month aimed at raising awareness of missing, murdered and abused Native American and First Nations women. The “Sing Our Rivers Red” program includes a variety of presentations along with a unique art project that women of all races are being asked to take part in.

More than 1181 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or reported missing in Canada since 1980. Here in the U.S. Native American women are two-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than non-Native women. Seventy percent of those incidents are committed against Native women by non-Natives.

Credit Courtesy Tanaya Winder
Tanaya Winder - co-organizer of the “Sing Our Rivers Red” events.

Tanaya Winder organized the “Sing Our Rivers Red” events with long-time friend Hannabah Blue. She says a key part of the program is the traveling art exhibit that will present 1181 individual ear rings, representing each of the missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

“The ear ring exhibit was my idea,” Winder explains. “And I just thought of it because….just what the ear rings could symbolize…they symbolize the missing women. And it’s very important to us to not…clump them all together in a vase or something…but to show each of them individually. Just an artistic and visual representation of...of these women."

Winder says women are being asked to donate either one ear ring from a set that’s missing its partner or one from a complete set with the idea of wearing the remaining ear ring in memory of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.

Credit Courtesy Netha Cloeter
Netha Cloeter - curator for the Memorial State Gallery at North Dakota State University.

Netha Cloeter is curator for the Memorial State Gallery at North Dakota State University – where the ear ring exhibit is on display from February 9 to March 4.

“I think this is an issue that’s continually marginalized and silenced in the larger conversation about violence and missing individuals,” observes Cloeter. “And we’re, in particular in North Dakota, really interested in bringing this to light because of the increase in human trafficking happening with oil in western North Dakota.” 20

Events scheduled for the “Sing Our Rivers Red” program take place in Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota the week of Valentine’s Day to coincide with similar events taking place in Canada. They include a poetry Speak Out, a self-defense and self-empowerment workshop for women, a concert by Rosebud Sioux rapper Frank Waln, a march and a rally.

Credit Courtesy Netha Cloeter
555 ear rings have been collected for the “Sing Our Rivers Red” traveling art exhibit. Another 626 are needed by February 9.

Anyone interested in donating an ear ring to the “Sing Our Rover Red” program traveling art exhibit may send it to:  

Netha Cloeter
Memorial Union 258
Dept. 5340, P.O. Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
For more information on the “Sing Our Rivers Red” program: