Thousands of indigenous women go missing, are murdered, or are sexually assaulted in North America every year.
In honor of these Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, Kelsey Lansing, the Cultural Outreach Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Services Organization has begun an artistic initiative in hopes of raising awareness for these fallen sisters.
Touched by the efforts of Tanaya Winder, a creator of “Sing Our Rivers Red,” an earring exhibit to honor missing and murdered indigenous women, Kelsey Lansing was encouraged by Tanaya Winder to create her own exhibit.
Lansing’s exhibit to honor these fallen sisters includes a plethora of earrings, each to represent an indigenous woman who has gone missing, been murdered, or been the victim of sexual assault.
A collaborator on the project and a Fort Lewis College professor, Majel Boxer, says through this project she hopes people understand that there are still hope for these women.
“They’re not missing, they’re somewhere,” she said.
In order to create this art piece, Lansing accepts donations of one side of an earring to add to the piece, and has even created workshops where people can make their own earrings.
The earrings made at these workshops are beaded, or painted, and can either be kept or can become a part of Lansing’s vision.
Lansing, an indigenous woman herself, said that her inspiration behind her creative endeavor is the heart-wrenching feeling inside her whenever she would witness an image of a missing and murdered indigenous woman.
Only on her third workshop, Kelsey has received positive feedback from those who have attended these workshops, acknowledging the empowering impact the workshop brings with it.
“It’s a way of silently sending that prayer to whoever is missing or has been murdered, whether you know them, or they’re in the news,” Lansing said.
Lansing also has the help of earring makers who assist in facilitating the workshops as well as provide instruction on how to make the earrings.
November is National Native American Heritage month, but SASO hopes the project will help raise general awareness well past November.
“We know it’s an ongoing concern, not just something confined to a book or to the month of November,” says Dr. Majel Boxer.
Working with the Colorado Coalition of Sexual Assault, Lansing’s vision has gone nationwide.
Lansing has received donated earrings from all over the nation, including Texas, Washington, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, and even New York.
So far at these workshops, she has collected 53 earrings.
The exhibit will run from December 3 to 7 at the Durango Arts Center and will provide guests the opportunity to view the time and dedication put into the handmade earrings, as well as the donated earrings.
Lansing aspires to keep the workshops rolling, and to continue to raise awareness for these missing and murdered indigenous women who cannot do so for themselves.