Jaime Black’s The REDress Project Focuses Attention on Indigenous Women

On a bitterly cold March morning, the empty red dresses flap in the winds. The garments are not part of a fashion exhibit, but rather the work of Métis artist Jaime Black, whose goal is to raise awareness of missing indigenous women, not only in her native Canada, but also in the United States. The dresses are just a fraction of the more than 400 that Black has collected since 2011. Through her REDdress Project, on display outside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., Black hopes to give voice to those women whose voices have been silenced through violence, discrimination, and indifference. 

Ironically, indigenous people, native to their lands, are often viewed as outsiders by later settlers. One only has to look at the history of how Native Americans have been treated and continue to be treated in the U.S., to understand the challenges faced by indigenous people and particularly by indigenous women. According to the Indian Law Resource Center, violence against indigenous women, on tribal lands and in Alaska native villages, has reached unprecedented levels. The center estimates that more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than one in two have experienced sexual violence. Many incidents of violence are never reported because the women are afraid to step forward.

The REDress Project will be on view through March 31 to commemorate Women’s History Month. On March 21, from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Black will participate with other Native artists, activists, and scholars in the symposium, “Safety for Our Sisters: Ending Violence Against Native Women.” For more information, go to the museum’s website.

Photos by Charlene Giannetti

About Charlene Giannetti (312 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the New York Times. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her new book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "1Life After You," focusing on the opioid crisis that will be filmed in 2019. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.