Photo: Aspen Decker, ƛ̓éʔem łu qe Sqlqélixʷ Smmʔem 'Look for our Indigenous Woman' (Salish language), 2024, digital ledger art.

We Stand With You: Contemporary Artists Honor The Families Of The Missing And Murdered Indigenous Relative Crisis

May 2 2024 - September 7 2024

We Stand With You: Contemporary Artists Honor The Families Of The Missing And Murdered Indigenous Relative Crisis, guest curated by Rachel Allen

While this crisis first focused on Indigenous women and girls, numerous murders and disappearances of LGBTQ+/ Two Spirit people and men make this a broader issue inseparable from generational legacies of forced removal, land seizures, and violence. While women still are targeted the majority of the time, MAM uses Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, or the acronym MMIR, though it is common to see MMIW, MMIWG, MMIP, and MMIX as well.

When confronted with the individual stories, much less the statistics, the enormity of this crisis is overwhelming. Tribal people have disproportionately high rates of assault, rape, abduction, and murder. Indigenous women are 4 times as likely to go missing, murdered at a rate 10 times higher than the national average, and homicide is one of the leading causes of death for young Indigenous women, with sexual assault occurring at a much higher rate and with more serious consequences than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. In 2021, the Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse listed 179 active missing person cases, with 57, or 32%, of them identified as Indigenous. Indigenous people make up 6.9% of the state's population. According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, in 2020 alone there were 5,295 Indigenous women and 4,276 Indigenous men reported missing across the United States.

Hanna Harris (Tsis tsis'tas [Northern Cheyenne]) was murdered in 2013. Hanna’s Act was established by the 66th Montana legislature in 2018, authorizing the Department of Justice to assist local law enforcement in missing persons cases. Harris’ birthday, May 5 is observed as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day and President Joe Biden declared May 5th as National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day, issuing an Executive Order to prioritize the crisis of MMIR.

To get involved, consider donating to the Sovereign Bodies Institute who excels at MMIR advocacy and maintains the largest MMIR database.

We Stand With You, guest curated by Rachel Allen (Nimiipuu [Nez Perce]), takes place in the Lynda M. Frost Contemporary American Indian Art Gallery. This gallery is dedicated to exclusively exhibiting and programming work by contemporary Native artists. MAM is situated on the traditional, ancestral territories of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé peoples. Exhibitions like this are one of the ways that the museum honors and recognizes this relationship.

One of MAM’s goals has been to expand the curatorial voice to include broader Indigenous representation. With a museum staff of only twelve people, Indigenous representation has fluctuated between 10 and 25 percent of staff. Despite the museum’s strong commitment to contemporary Indigenous artists, the curatorial configuration does not currently include Indigenous representation. To this end, MAM invited Rachel Allen to organize this exhibition.

Allen grew up in Great Falls and is currently exhibition special project manager and co-curator of the upcoming Joe Feddersen retrospective at the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture in Spokane, WA.

Following a public call for art, Allen selected works by 11 artists, drawing from all of Montana’s reservations—the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, the Blackfeet Reservation, Rocky Boy, Ft. Belknap, Ft. Peck, Northern Cheyenne, and Crow Reservation, as well as the currently unlanded Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Tribal people from the state’s urban areas who have a variety of broader Tribal affiliations.

Thank you to Rachel Allen for organizing the exhibition and thank you to the artists for sharing their vision.

This exhibition is generously support by the PROP Foundation.

Participating Artists:

Angela Babby

Aspen Decker

Monica Gilles-Brings Yellow

Valentina La Pier

Michael Largo

Carrie Moran McCleary

Jen Murphy

Linda Pease

Desiree Rowland

Della BigHair Stump

Benjamin West

Related Events

Friday, May 3 from 6 PM - First Friday Curatorial Talk: Rachel Allen

Friday, May 3 from 5 to 8 PM - First Friday Exhibition Opening: We Stand with You

Related Press

NBC Montana - Missoula Art Museum Exhibition Honors Missing, Murdered Indigenous People - April 26, 2024

Curatorial Statement

Welcome to the exhibition, We Stand With You: Contemporary Artists Honor the Families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relative Crisis. The artists represented in this exhibition recognize the urgency of this crisis in Montana. As you reflect on the information, stories, and artwork, I invite you to take your time to rest with loved ones.

Amidst this crisis, I am humbled by the work of families and advocates. I offer my deepest thanks to Annita Lucchesi, Founder and Director of Sovereign Bodies Institute, for sharing your time and knowledge with me. Thank you, Cheryl Horn and Kathryn Shanley, for your guidance in this project. I offer my appreciation to each participating artist for sharing your work. This exhibition is dedicated to affected families. They are the resilient leaders.

<p>Rachel Allen<br></p>

Rachel Allen