A week after "Bring Her Home 2020: Sacred Womxn of Resistance" opened at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, a young Indigenous girl named Miikawaadizi went missing.
Coincidentally, the show — focusing on the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous women — includes a photo of the girl with a red handprint over her mouth, shot by her cousin Ne-Dah-Ness Greene.
"It was my fear realized," said Angela Two Stars, director of All My Relations. "It gets you in the heart, so we asked: What can we do to help?"
The gallery shared Miikawaadizi's disappearance on its social media; a few days later, Greene posted that the girl had been returned home unharmed.
Although Miikawaadizi's story had a positive ending, the broader statistics are dire.
American Indian women deal with murder rates 10 times the national average, and homicide is their third-leading cause of death. Minnesota has the ninth-highest rate of missing or murdered Indigenous women. In 2016, 5,712 such cases were reported nationally, according to a study by the Urban Indian Health Institute.
Minnesota's Legislature voted unanimously in 2019 to create a task force to address the issue. But as this exhibition demonstrates, it's just a beginning.
Greene is one of 14 Indigenous artists, including Minnesota-based Julie Buffalohead, Dyani White Hawk, Graci Horne, Loriene Pearson and Cole Redhorse Jacobson, included in the powerful exhibition.
It is currently available for viewing via allmyrelationsarts.com, and in person starting Jan. 11 if the gallery and adjacent Pow Wow Grounds coffee shop can reopen as planned.
Two Stars sought to raise awareness and serve as an advocate for Indigenous women when she curated two earlier iterations of this show at All My Relations. This edition's curator, Reyna Hernandez, who lives in Vermillion, S.D., wanted to focus on resistance.
"I thought a lot about empowerment rather than replaying the same narrative of tragedy," said Hernandez, who is mixed Chicana/Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate.
"We don't feel that way — we feel empowered in our culture and we want to reflect that not only to Indigenous culture but to others who might see us as a tragic group of people."
That sentiment is reflected in Hernandez's acrylic painting "Forward." Seven women, including family members and famous Dakota writer Zitkala-Sa, pose confidently, wearing a mix of contemporary and traditional clothing as they look straight ahead while perched on a pink cloud with shades of blue in the background.
The design was inspired by the empowerment she saw in a still from Beyoncé's "Lemonade."
"Beyoncé is my lord and savior," said Hernandez. "Everything I make, I am thinking about how incredibly powerful and empowered she is."
White Hawk's photo installation "I Am Your Relative" shows six women and girls standing up, wearing ribbon skirts, symbolic of adaptation and survival, and black shirts with bold white text in English on the front, like "More Than Your Desire," with tribal affiliations on the back (Dakota, Anishnabee, etc.)
"I noticed there's a lot of focus on the figure, of the female form, and I think that's also a good indication of that standing up and resistance," said Two Stars.
Resisting stereotypes, too
Greene, who is Native (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) and African American, created the campaign "MMIW Minnesota 4 Directions Awareness Gathering" to combat stereotypes and raise awareness around missing and murdered Indigenous women after a family member was murdered. The exhibition includes five of her photographs.
"I wanted to bring awareness to all types of Native American women, not just the typical what everyone assumes us to look like," she said.
Greene, who shoots photos for Indigenous Rising Media, an environmental-action project, invited Native women of mixed descent to participate. She focused on four regional locations — Cass Lake, Duluth, Fargo and Minneapolis — and shot pictures in places where women go missing, like railroad tracks and harbors.
Participants included survivors, victims, social workers and members of sexual assault organizations. Some stood in minus-20 cold for up to two hours to make the photos happen.
"It's not just a show," said Two Stars. "It's a lived experience."
@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437
Bring Her Home: Sacred Womxn of Resistance
When: Through Feb. 20.
In person: Evenings, starting Jan. 11, by appointment only at All My Relations Gallery, 1414 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.
Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-235-4970.