Gonzaga University Art Exhibit to Raise Awareness of MMIW
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By Matthew Kincanon
This month, Gonzaga University will host an art exhibit dedicated to raising awareness of the current issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) nationwide.
Jeff Ferguson, guest curator of the art exhibit and a member of the Spokane Tribe, said the types of art attendees will see include videos, acrylic and oil paintings, as well as a dress that took 20 years to make.
When the university approached him to organize the event, Ferguson said the art exhibit had no theme and they let him decide what it would be.
Looking at the gallery space, Ferguson said he got the idea for the theme to be about MMIW when a train was passing. There were two moves he wanted to focus on; the Land Back movement and MMIW.
With MMIW, he said the train made him think about the problem of human trafficking in the state and how people are trafficked.
“Missing and murdered Indigenous women is an issue that people are thinking about and they think it’s new,” Ferguson said. “It’s not a new problem, it’s something that’s been happening in this country for 500 years.”
On Friday March 4 and Saturday March 5, ceremonies will take place with guest speakers. Speakers include author and health coach Donell Barlow (Ottawa), lawyer Margo
Hill (Spokane), US Senate candidate Paulette Jordan (Coeur d’Alene), teacher Idella King (Northern Arapaho) and activist Patricia Whitefoot (Yakama).
Participating artists include LeAnne Campbell (Coeur d’Alene), Ric Gendron (Colville), Helen Goodteacher (Nez Percé), Dave Madera (Spokane), Tanisha Rattler (Northern Arapaho) and Shane Ridley Stevens (Te-Moak), among others .
Ferguson said he hopes the event will open people’s minds and remind them to say something if they see something. He added that people asking for help should be listened to and not seen as being overly dramatic or making things up.
“We live in such a vulnerable time,” he said. “Human life is so sacred and it is bought and sold all around us and literally under our noses.”
Of the thousands of open and unsolved cases of MMIW in the United States and Canada, 107 are in Washington state, including 17 in and around Spokane, according to the university.
Indigenous people make up less than 2% of the U.S. population, and Ferguson said they’re being swept under the rug repeatedly.
“We are all real people and we are still here. We didn’t magically disappear at the bicentennial,” Ferguson said. “Just because this land was settled doesn’t mean the original inhabitants left.”
The art exhibition will open Friday at the Gonzaga University Center for Urban Arts. The university said it will run from March 4-26.
The gallery will be open on Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
The full list of participating artists and other information regarding the art exhibition can be found here.
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